It was a difficult time for us. We were fighting all the time, saying hurtful words, and threatening to withhold from each other that which we love… the game console Wii.
During our last parent-teacher meeting, his pre-school teacher said, “your son will be representing the school in the inter-school storytelling contest.”
We were somehow expecting it already. He represented the school last year in the poem recitation and won the silver medal. He lost because he skipped one line. And he skipped one line because we could not push him to practice, as he was nursing a fever. But he soldiered on, despite his obvious discomfort, said his lines, and did his best.
I remember in the car, he asked, “Dad, is it ok that I only got silver?”
“Yes,” we said. “It doesn’t matter what medal you get, as long as you do your best.”
And he has done his best since then.
He struggled with studies at the start of the year, partly because he was always being teased or laughed at. After supporting him, encouraging him, and telling him that we love him, now and forever, he jumped to the top of the class. He is on a roll now.
But it was a struggle for us to get him to practice. He would say, “I’ve done it already seventy times!” This was after he asked how many times he needed to practice, and I said, “seventy times seven times!”
“Wow! That’s a big number, Daddy, but my answer is still NO!”
“Never!” Fist pumped in the air!
“I’ve done it so much already!”
“I’m hungry! I’m sleepy!” Even if he just ate, or just recently woken up from a nap.
At one of our shouting matches, he screamed and used his full cartoon vocabulary at his mommy and lola (“You J-E-R-K!” — hmmm, we should put parental controls on cartoon network). I got up, pulled out his Wii games, and told him if does not shape up, he will lose his games.
He lost game after game as he continued to be stubborn. Finally, when there was no game left, I had to pull out the Wii.
It was like I pulled his heart out from his chest. It hurt to see him this way, but there was a lesson here that we both had to learn.
His lesson: To be better, you must practice.
My lesson: Love sometimes hurts, but it must never be violent.
His lola took him to his room, and I could not blame her if she thought I was harsh. I bet you would think me harsh too.
As he calmed, I went to him. In our secret language, as fathers who often spend time with their sons often discover, I told him that I love him. And in words that he understood, I explained why practice is the essence of perfection (I actually said something like dinosaurs do not growl as soon as they are born – they find their own voice through their parents).
We said sorry… and… It was a surprise to his mother and grandparents that he suddenly began to rehearse his story.
“I’m ready!” he told us this morning.
He pulled out the number 15 (out of 20 contestants), and waited.
He said his piece to perfection. His intonation, his expression, his words… priceless to watch, a joy to behold.
He brought home the GOLD.