June 13, 2003 - Friday
For Fathers Day, Harry's teacher invited dads to come into class this morning and read a story. Two other dads and a grandfather came and that was probably enough so I might not have gone. After all, I'd been in there before to read a story and four stories seems like a lot for the kids to sit through. But, Harry does seem to like it when I'm there and it's wasn't hard for me to do today, so I went. Thankfully, the kids hung in well, perhaps due to four very different style presentations. My story was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and the kids seemed interested, although half way Harry jumped off my lap and took a place on the floor. Maybe it was so he could see better, but it was a little unexpected.
Anyway, the real story of the day came later at Mary's house while Harry and I were getting Jeremy. Harry had picked up a truck and asked Mary directly, instead of me, whether he might be able to borrow it. Last fall he did this a few times and asked me and I'd tell him to just ask Mary, always feeling fairly confident that she'd be happy to lend one of the many toys that she had accumulated over years of watching children. After she'd say "yes" to Harry I'd always lean down and encourage him to say "thank you," which he found somehow more difficult than asking in the first place. I remember, too, that on a few occasions when we brought things back to Mary's house that Harry would not say 'thank you' even though we had talked about it in the car and I'd have a talk with him again afterward about how saying "thank you" is a nice thing to do for someone who is nice to him. Indeed, after having this conversation a few times to relatively quick succession, I remember getting a little more urgent with Harry about him not being very nice and that Mary might not be nice again because he wasn't nice.
So, today, after Mary agreed that he could take the particular truck home I leaned over to quietly encourage Harry to say "thank you" and he did without hesitation. I rubbed his head and smiled at him thinking that we'd must have made a little progress getting him to be polite over the last few months. But, when we got back to the car Harry shocked me. Actually, he said nothing particularly shocking, but quite revealing in terms of what children hear and what they truly understand.
He said something like "it's nice to say 'thank you'. I didn't know how to say 'thank you' when I was a baby" (referencing a phrase we use with Harry to explain Jeremy's inability to be polite and to distinguish between what we expect of Harry and Jeremy), he continued "but now I know how to say "thank you."
He was clearly referring to those times last fall when he won't say 'thank you.' I thought of my frustration back then thinking I wasn't getting through to him and that it was just another time when I was badgering him as an overbearing father and encouraging him to do something that was beyond his years. What do you know? It seemed to make a difference, just not immediately so I would know last fall. So, really, it was "we" that had made progress, it was Harry working through what we had tried to teach him last fall. He'd heard me. He'd paid attention. He'd tried to do better. Parental feedback like that just doesn't come around that often. It was remarkable to hear.