As a father of eight I have to constantly watch and listen to try to gather insights into the worlds that each of my children live in. There are a couple of reasons why I want to do this. First is that exploring their worlds is like exploring a magnificent cave with tunnels and grand chambers and stalactites and crystals and deep pools and . . . well it goes on and on. The treasures and secrets I might find are infinite. The other reason goes along with the responsibility part of being “Dad.” I need to keep an eye out for any trouble signs in their world where I might be needed to step in and help. With eight kids this watching and listening is constant, and still I know I miss much.
The other day I picked up on something with my eight-year-old son. Jory is imaginative, carefree, and playful. Although he can be the greatest helpmate and persist until the job is done he also sometimes plays a game to see what he can get away with. When his mother catches him leaving an unfinished job he will grin, groan, and say, “How do you always catch me.” One day his mother reported that he had told her that he had done a particular job when he hadn't done it. She told me this soon after I had arrived home from work and there were many other things calling my attention so I just filed it. A couple of weeks later some of my kids were with me at their grandparent's house. Grandpa came in and asked Jory what he had done with the cardboard from a game they had opened outside.
“Oh,” he said, “I threw it away.”
“You did not,” Grandpa said. “It's still on the lawn.”
“Oh, yeah.” Jory said, with a “you got me” grin.
This incident, combined with the previous one his mother had told me about got my attention. Was Jory becoming a liar? Jory is a good kid with a good heart. But I personally know other kids who have spent time in jail who were the best kids when they were young. I wanted to nip this in the bud. What I didn't want to do was embarrass Jory in front of his family and put the first brick in a wall between us so I decided to wait for a better time to talk with him.
It was several days later, when Jory had come to the computer shop with me, that I had an opportunity to approach the subject. We were the only ones in the shop. He had just finished his school where I had been helping him and was sitting near me.
“Jory,” I said. “Have you been lying lately?” I said this calmly, but surprised myself with my directness. I was even more surprised by his response. His whole demeanor dropped which told me he took my question very seriously. Then he slowly nodded his head. If my son was becoming a liar he was being honest about it.
I brought up the instances of dishonesty I knew about and then started talking to him about honesty in terms I thought he could understand. As I talked big tears pooled in his eyes. Eventually they spilled over his eyelashes and dropped onto his red sweatshirt where they soaked in forming dark wet spots. My voice wavered for a moment as I witnessed his remorse and shame. I felt bad but I wasn't speaking to him harshly or chiding him. His reaction was purely his own sense of right and wrong working on him now that it had been called out. At the end of our talk Jory, who had been sitting with his knees up to his chest under his sweatshirt, had almost pulled his entire face into his sweatshirt. I reached over and pulled him to me in a hug. He didn't hug me back, That may have been because his arms were inside his sweatshirt too, but he laid his head against my chest as he cried quietly.
I have had moments like this with each of my eight children—each one under the differing skies of each of their worlds. It takes a lot of watching and listening to keep up with eight children, but the riches I discover in each of their worlds makes it all worthwhile. Has Jory learned his lesson? I can only hope so. In the meantime I will continue to watch and listen.