“Dad, tell that story again about the time I stabbed you.”
My younger teen daughter, Lindsay, makes this request every few months or so with a giggle. And while she’s the villain of the story, it also features one of my not-so-flattering moments as a parent — one of those many bloopers that all families experience when things don’t go as planned.
At age 4, Lindsay attended a summer art class that she absolutely loved. When my older daughter, Lauren, and I went to pick her up from class one day, only Lindsay and the teacher remained. She was not quite finished with her art project and was ignoring my pleas that we had to go.
The project consisted of drawing a picture on a black piece of paper. As I looked closer, however, I realized that Lindsay was using a sharp wooden skewer on the paper rather than a regular pen or pencil. The sharp tip of the skewer was used to remove a black film on the paper and reveal rainbow colors underneath.
“Lindsay, we really have to go now,” I said. She did not respond.
I glanced at the teacher with a forced smile and said, “Come on, honey, your teacher wants to go home. We really need to go.”
Again, Lindsay continued to work.
At this point, frustration set in. I was tired, it was late in the day, and Lindsay knew better. I scooped her into my arms firmly, bid goodbye to the teacher, and started to carry Lindsay out of the studio. She immediately cried for her artwork, so I told Lauren to bring it to the car, but I did not relinquish my grip.
Unfortunately, Lindsay had now started wriggling down my left side. I had to tighten my grip considerably as she ended up in a horizontal position across my chest. And when I looked down, I saw a crucial mistake: Lindsay still had the sharp skewer in her tiny fist.
As we entered the parking lot, I suddenly felt alarming pangs of pain in my leg. Normally peaceful Lindsay was stabbing me with her skewer! Instinctively, I squeezed her even tighter and yelled: “You will NOT stab your father!”
In rage, I repeated this reverse-gender Oedipal chant while mortified Lauren started looking around for witnesses in the parking lot. A tinge of guilt entered my mind, but adrenaline reigned. When we reached the car, I commanded Lauren: “Open the back door!” As she did, I deposited my Bride of Chucky into the backseat, swiped the skewer from her little hand, and slammed the door.
Family bloopers provide laughter and lessons
In hindsight, I could have handled the incident better. But as all parents know, we don’t always practice the theories we preach at all times. I take some solace, however, in the fact that I did not say anything personally destructive to Lindsay. I regret my semi-violent anger, but at least I managed to separate the misbehavior (stabbing) from the child (Lindsay).
Our family learned that day that Lindsay was not as peaceful as we had thought. But since then we have also learned the value of hanging on to family bloopers, for they often provide perspective and comic relief during tough times years later. So I encourage parents to document some of those trying moments that later become bloopers. Use whatever works best for your family — e.g. photos, videos, journal entries or simply old-fashioned storytelling. So much of modern parenting is fraught with planning, worrying and struggling for control. Be sure to take time to savor the unscripted moments.
Today, it seems fitting that preschool Lindsay who was ready to maim me for interrupting her art is now a true artist — an avid teen filmmaker. Come to think of it, she once decapitated me in one of her films. But I choose not to read any more Oedipus themes into that fact.