Monday, October 20, 2008
The Sad Tale of Mr. Lion
Sometimes we are told that children don't develop long term memory until they are about 4 years of age. This may or may not be true. Although I think I have some spotty memories from before that age, I don't have a really good day-to-day recollection of life as a baby.
However, The Boy, probably because he spent most of his pre-school days as a superhero, has an unfailing memory. It may be one of his super powers.
When we moved into our present abode, The Boy was still in a crib. One room was already decorated with boyish things - brown walls and a wallpaper border depicting leopards frolicking (if, indeed, leopards can be said to frolic). It was quite fitting that someone gifted him a large, stuffed lion for Christmas. The lion was well-loved and had to accompany him to bed each night. I don't remember if he was christened with a name, he was probably called Mr. Lion, or something equally brilliant.
However, as time went on The Boy became dissatisfied with the lion and suddenly concerned about being surrounded by big jungle cats. Although the lion had a friendly face, a certain distrust of the lion's intentions crept into his thinking. He had obviously noticed that the lion was a bit taller than he, and had friends in the room. Honestly, I myself might have been concerned about falling asleep with a giant lion lying in the bed next to me, caged in by crib bars and rails.
The lion fell into disfavor and The Boy started to reject him at bedtime. As the months and years went by the lion was shifted from corner to corner in his room but never accepted into close friendship again. I don't know what eventually became of the lion. I believe he ceased to reside at this address years ago.
I was left without a response then, when suddenly, the other day, the Boy inquired as to the whereabouts of the lion. I thought of lots of ways to explain the animal's absence, some of which left me blameless (who wants to take the rap for animal abduction?). Perhaps I could say he ran away back to the jungle? I knew those stories wouldn't wash, The Boy is older now and he's not going to buy any such flimsy excuse.
In the end, I decided to face it. Steely-eyed and set in my purpose, I briefly explained to him that he had one day decided the lion was untrustworthy, and after a time it was decided that the lion must go. Therefore, the lion no longer lived at our house.
I waited for the accusations, the tears, the anguished cry of "how could you?" and braced myself to take on the full responsibility and guilt for my actions.
The Boy looked at me and said "Oh", then went about his business, unconcerned.
I had prepared for the worst and gotten no reaction whatsoever. All that guilt I was feeling was completely unnecessary.
Children are hardly ever emotionally scarred for life by the little things we think we have done wrong, or the small mistakes we have made. In the end, it's much simpler to just lay the truth out before them and let them deal with it.
I had to laugh though when later, after some reflection, I realized that the truth was even more exculpatory than I had thought. For it occurred to me that it was The Boy himself, engaged in the hated task of cleaning his room, who had carried that lion out to the trash one day.