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4-year-old’s sincerity not so sincere

The Picarella Family Report

Posted: July 11, 2008 1:26 a.m.
Updated: September 11, 2008 5:02 a.m.
My 4-year-old son hurt my feelings the other day. He said he wanted my wife to drive him to school. When I told him that I was going to take him, he said, “No! I don’t want you to take me. I want Mommy.”

My feelings were hurt, but I didn’t feel that bad because sometimes my son says he wants to do things with me and not with his mom. Nevertheless, my son doesn’t have to be rude.

And so I decided to teach the boy about hurting people’s feelings — not an easy task. When I told him that he hurt my feelings, he asked to see my “boo-boo.”

“There is no boo-boo that you can see,” I said. “It doesn’t hurt on the outside, it hurts on the inside.”

“Does it sting,” my son asked, “like when I fell down and hurt my knee and couldn’t walk all day?”

“No, it’s a different kind of hurt,” I said. “It’s like being sad.”

“Oh, I know what sad is,” my son said as if he uncovered the meaning of life. “Sad like when your smile is upside down.”

“Yes, exactly,” I said.

I had set out to teach a 4-year-old boy something very difficult, an emotion, and I was making great progress. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

Then he said, “If your smile is upside down, why don’t you just smile regularly?”

I was getting nowhere with the kid, and he was throwing a fit because he still wanted Mommy to take him to school. I wasn’t going to let him be rude to me. So I did what most anyone would do in my situation. I punished the kid for yelling and for hurting my feelings — again. I took away one of his favorite toys for a week. And that was that.

That night, when my son was saying goodnight, he told my wife and me that when he grows up, he wants to be a racecar driver, he wants to grow hair on his arms, and he wants to love his mommy.

“What about Daddy?” my wife asked. “Do you want to love him, too?”

“No, I just want to love Mommy,” he replied.

He hurt my feelings again. This time, my wife took a stab at teaching the boy about people’s feelings. He still wasn’t getting it, and he showed us his frustration by yelling, “I just don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom!”

We couldn’t believe the rudeness he displayed. So we did what anyone would do in our situation. We punished the kid.

“We were going to take you to the popcorn room (the movie theater) tomorrow and watch a movie,” my wife said, “but since you keep hurting Daddy’s feelings and since you’re being rude and yelling at me and hurting my feelings, we’re not going to go.”

“No,” my son sobbed as if he was about to lose an arm or a leg. “But I’m sorry.”

My wife asked, “Are you sorry because you feel bad that you hurt our feelings, or are you sorry because you can’t go to the popcorn room?”

“No, I’m sorry because I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings,” my son said. He sounded very sincere, tears included.

And then he said, “What movie are we going to see in the popcorn room?” There goes his sincerity.
So we did what anyone would do in our situation. We gave up and went to the movies anyway.

Michael Picarella is a Valencia resident and a proud husband and father. His column reflects his own opinion, not necessarily that of The Signal. To contact Picarella or to read more stories, go to


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