I was a new parent. My son was three years old and I knew this day would come.
We were coming back from the bank on a Saturday morning. It was a practiced routine every other Saturday. We would walk to the corner bank where I would deposit my pay check, he would get a lollipop and I would get some cash.
It had rained all morning and stopped just prior to our walk. The sun had yet to come out, and the temperature was in the low fifties.
This was a defining moment. It was 22 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday.
There is a time in every child’s life when they choose to deny authority. I remembered it from my college psychology course. Today was the day.
He walked a few steps ahead of me, jumped in the air and splashed down in a puddle on the sidewalk. His face was pure joy as his sneakers and pants absorbed the moisture.
I said, “don’t!”
He looked at me, smiled and jumped in again. “STOP!” Another smile and another jump into the puddle.
He was laughing with a glee I had only seen on Christmas Day while opening presents or on is birthday party.
As a parent there are few things more important than the happiness of our children. I had to weigh the balance the of the joyous glee versus establishing my parental role and punish him for his disobedience.
Once again, remembering Psychology 101 this defining moment would set the stage for more and more disobedience. The ultimate would be that the child dominates the parents rendering moot their authority.
I chose to allow the glee.
I have wondered for the last two decades about the impact of the decision to “spare the rod.” I regret having spoiled the child.
Would his life had been different if I had quashed his glee?
Did my inaction have that dramatic an impact on his life?
For the past six months I visit him every other Saturday in a State Correctional Facility.
While there could be any number of reasons for how his life is going. He is taking responsibility for his crime and he should be out come August. I am proud of him and have stood by him through his difficulties.
I will never know if things would have been any different had I not let him Jump In The Puddles.