Empathy in my 6-year-old is a wonderful reminder that maybe I’m doing something right as a parent.
Most days my son, Vincent, behaves like a typical boy.
He runs, laughs, talks, talks and talks.
He has good times when he minds his manners and follows directions. He has bad times when he throws tantrums and whines.
But, there are times when he surprises me. It’s in those small moments that I find I’m teaching my son in ways I didn’t even know.
The other day, my husband, William, decided to give Vincent a gift he had received from his adoptive father. William explained that the small horse plaque was once his father’s.
“It was?” Vincent asked.
“Yes, but now you can have it to put in your room,” William said, handing the plaque to Vincent.
Vincent turned the plaque over in his tiny hands and looked up with tears in his eyes.
“Vincent, honey, what’s wrong?” William asked.
No response, just more tears. And then it came to William — what made Vincent so sad.
William crouched down to Vincent’s eye level.
“Are you sad that my dad is gone?”
Still no response.
Vincent flung his arms around William’s neck and nodded his head.
“It’s OK,” William whispered into Vincent’s ear.
Dad, I’m just sad for you, that your daddy is not here.”
“It’s OK, Vincent, to be sad,” William said.
Vincent leaned back from his father and nodded his head in agreement.
Vincent’s tears were then replaced by a smile. He gently placed the horse plaque on his nightstand and started playing with his Legos.
After William and I left the room, we talked about Vincent’s reaction.
“I think it’s interesting that Vincent was able to understand you and your loss of your father. I mean, he really showed us something deep inside of him,” I said.
William agreed. “Yeah, he really knew how sad I felt and it made him sad. He was a very big boy today.”
The rest of the day went on as usual with Vincent — the good times, the bad — but for that moment, something deeper had crept to the surface.
Vincent felt his dad’s sadness and understood it, something I believe can’t always be taught, but comes from within.
It made me proud. My boy is growing into a little man.