Monday, December 10, 2012

Hypocritical Me

We had our annual Christmas party last night. It's for a small group of close friends and their kids. Each year, we put our dog into the upstairs bedroom. She's okay with humans; it is just that some of the attendees are not "dog people," so Krimpet is banished to the master bedroom. She whines a little, but, in the end, she gets to lie on our bed all night. She's cool with it.

During the party, I went to check on the kids -- just to make sure no one was in need of CPR or anything -- and I noticed my older son was missing. The stairs were directly to my left and I heard sobbing from upstairs. I went up to find him sitting in his bed, crying. When I asked what the problem was, he said he was sad for Krimpet. "She's lonely," he said. "She should be allowed out with the people."

I explained why she had to stay in the room and I suggested he go down and play with the other kids instead of wasting his night worrying about the dog. He insisted we were being mean to the dog and I got a little snippy: "She's perfectly happy. She's probably asleep," I told him. He would hear none of it. "She's lonely," he insisted. "How can she be lonely if she is sleeping?" I asked him. "You can decide if you want to ruin the rest of your night by staying up here, but I'm going back down for the party." I went downstairs in a huff.

He was being ridiculous, right?

Flash back in time: ten years ago. My parents, my first son, still a baby (the one above) and my wife and I went to the mountains for a vacation. It was scorching summer, but the place was free (a client of my father's had let us stay there in trade for some orchestrations he'd done) so, it was the mountains instead of the seashore.

Ansel Adams
The whole week was obscenely hot and humid. The house had no air-conditioning, except for one room. None of the bedrooms had air.

I had gotten my son ready for bed; summer baby sleepwear: just a diaper. He had been cranky. The heat was brutal. He wanted to be held and rocked and read to, but being held made him hotter and crankier. I read him some Dr. Seuss, and after much rocking and more perspiration, he fell asleep. I laid him gently in the crib. He slept, hiccuping gentle little leftover sobs the way babies do when they have cried their way into dreams.

The air might as wall have been gravy. He lay there, his little brow glistening. But he was asleep. He was asleep, but I didn't want to leave him there. Eventually, I did.

I went up to the room with the air conditioner. My family was playing a board game. I tried to join in, but couldn't enjoy it, thinking about him down there in the thick heat while we all enjoyed being comfortable. Everyone encouraged me to cheer up. (I really was being pretty dark. I felt overwhelming guilt for his being in the hot room.)

"He's asleep," they all said, finally annoyed with my gloom. Their tone had gone from consoling to stern. "He's fine. How can he be unhappy if he is sleeping? Just relax and enjoy yourself."

I was being ridiculous, right?

Well, I didn't think so. I left the game and went downstairs. If my boy had to be in the heat, then so did I. I sat in his room and read in the dim light, sweating and comprehending half of every chapter until dozing off, myself.

What hypocrites we fathers can be. I should have let the dog out.

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