I hadn’t spent time with Collin for a bit so I asked him if he wanted to go to McDonald’s with me to pick up dinner. He happily agreed. He jumped in the car with his DS and we took off down the street to get burgers and a salad for Collin because his stomach had been hurting him the past few days. Collin’s new ADHD medication had been causing some digestive issues so I thought a salad would be helpful.
As we drove up I asked Collin what else he wanted and he was focused on his DS. I knew a side salad wasn’t going to be enough and I asked a few more times what he wanted. He didn’t reply and was still focused on the DS. So I tore it out of his hands and threw it in the backseat. I said “Collin! I’ve asked you several times what you wanted! Why aren’t you answering me?!” He started crying and replied “You said I just get a salad.” I tried to recover. I tried to tell him yes and I also wanted to know what he wanted with the salad.
But it was too late. I had scared him, made him feel dumb. I had not communicated the right way to my youngest son who already struggles with communication. That’s not to say he didn’t have part in the conversation – but a 40 year old understanding and owning his part in a conversation is much more than the 11 year old ADHD boy’s part.
And then it started under his tears.
I heard him.
“I am stupid. I don’t listen. Once I focus on something, I can’t un-focus Dad, and I don’t know how to fix that.”
I grabbed our order and started talking with my boy again. I got his DS out of the back seat. I threw it so hard the game came out of it. He lost the progress on it because of that. I asked him if he saved his game before we left the house. Thinking that just a few minutes’ worth of lost play time would make up for my behavior. It wasn’t so bad, right?
But it was. I hurt my Collin. And I made him feel inferior. We talked on the way home. About having a word that just he and I could use to try and grab his attention so he knew I was trying to get him to focus. We picked a phrase from one of his favorite videos. We were OK.
We were OK, but I wasn’t.
I got home and went to bed. He fell asleep and I went in and kissed him goodnight. I went to work the next day and was in my cube when I knew I had to repent of my behavior. Not just apologize, but repent. I wrote him a letter. I framed it in such a way that I thought in my head two avenues to write it.
The first: What if this was the last letter I would ever write to my boy, because I would not be here?
The second: What if this was the last letter Collin would ever get to read because he would not be here?
Mar 27 (1 day ago)
Last night you called yourself stupid.
Last night you said you don't listen.
Last night you said you get so focused on one thing you can't un-focus to something else.
Collin, let Dad tell you this once and for all. You're not stupid. You are intelligent and gifted. A wonderful artist and a great encourager to your daddy. I love your smile, your energy and the times we play together.
I love the games we play together, the games you invent and the way we always have fun whatever we do.
You do listen. You listen to me when I ask you to do something, even if you don't want to; you listen to me and are a good son and a wonderful boy.
I get frustrated. That's not at you, that's at me for not knowing how to help you be the best you can be. That's all any parent wants for their creative and loving boy.
Keep going. You are doing great. Be your best you. I am always proud of you.
You are my awesome son and I love you,
Collin read my letter and started to cry. “Thank you, Dad.” We sat and hugged for a long while.
I repented to my Collin. I didn’t just say I was sorry. I refuted everything that my offense made him feel about himself. I took the time to make sure everything he thought about himself was obliterated and took the responsibility back on me to make sure he knew I was accountable for my actions and that his Dad still loved him, even when I fail him.
That’s the spirit of repentance. Restoring what was taken away from someone so reconciliation can occur and the relationship can be restored. Collin teaches me many things, including how to be a better human being. And that is a great gift indeed.