Monday, May 01, 2006

Upside Down with my Son

When my son was a toddler, he thought the world revolved around him, which is sop for kids of that age. So when he wasn’t getting enough attention, he would do whatever it took to draw attention to himself. This caused some problems when I needed to stay late after church to talk to anybody. With my son in tow, I would try to conduct my business with other church members. And he would, well, he would want to toddle.

Parents do what they have to do to get their kids to obey. You just kinda sorta gotta do whatever it takes. That’s why parenting classes aren’t always effective. Every child is different and every relationship with their parents is different.

In our case, I discovered that he could be distracted if I carried him upside down. I don’t know what it was, but whenever he was being fussy and I couldn’t devote as much attention to him as he thought he deserved, I could get him to obey by picking him up and simply turning him over. Something about the blood rushing to his head, or the sudden attention that he was getting, or maybe just the change in perspective would satisfy him and I could continue my business.

So that’s what we did. I talked to people at church carrying my son upside down. It became almost automatic. It was so easy to reach down and turn him over; I could do it without even thinking and without breaking my conversation.

Soon I came to be known in our church as the guy who carries his son upside down. I guess everybody’s got to be known for something.

Eventually, it extended to our nighttime routine. He would come downstairs in his pajamas and announce that he was ready to go to bed. That meant that I was supposed to carry him up the stairs to his bedroom — upside down.

Over the years, he grew up and I carried him less and less — upside down and otherwise. My back and my knees appreciate that fact, but I kinda missed it.

He’s nine years old now. A couple of nights ago, he said he was ready for bed. I asked him if he wanted me to carry him upstairs to bed. I saw that he hesitated a little bit. “I won’t carry you upside down. Just regular.” Okay, that was probably okay. “I’ll let you if you want to.”

If I want to?

What had started out as a disciplinary procedure had turned into a cherished ritual. And now it was in danger of extinction. My little boy was growing up and he was losing one more aspect of his child-ness.

But he was willing to revert to being a toddler for just a few moments — if it made his dad happy.

I carried him upstairs, my knee aching the entire time. My back finally forgave me when we got to the top of the stairs and I laid him in his bed.

That’s probably the last time I’ll carry him up the stairs. I guess we’ll have to find something else to build some more memories.

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