The little boy’s plaintive wailing grew louder and louder. Until then, It had been a perfect July weekend at the family’s old cottage: the big Lake had finally warmed up enough to make swimming a relaxing pleasure, not an frigid ordeal, sunsets had spread their orangey warm glow across the darkening sky and evening board games and crokinole brought friendly competition amid three-generational laughter.
But now it was Sunday evening and Father was climbing into his car to leave. A desk covered in files was awaiting his return to a suburban Waterloo office. For the rest of the family, summer vacation would continue uninterrupted. They gathered in the laneway to say goodbye with hugs and good wishes for safe travelling. The Honda rolls down the gravel driveway and is soon out of sight. And that’s when little Joshua began to sob in his mother’s arms.
Touched by his sadness, Grandma immediately offers to take Joshua inside the cottage. She knows the four year old’s fondness for her chocolate chip cookies and several of them remain hidden in that round tin container with the Queen’s picture on its lid. But Grandma’s well-intentioned attempt to alleviate Joshua’s sad feelings with food is swiftly ignored by the tearful lad.
Grandpa tries a different approach, one that was routinely directed at him as a child in Europe by his own father many decades ago. “Come on now, Josh, big boys don’t cry.” Predictably, shaming isn’t the answer either. Sobbing only increases. Uncle Frank is also feeling uncomfortable with his nephew’s display of raw emotion. He steps in with a well-reasoned explanation for the Dad’s departure:
“You know, Joshua, that your Daddy has to go back to work now. He and your Mommy make the money that pays for us to keep our cottage and buy all that yummy food we like to eat. And this summer, we are going to get that new boat. Don’t forget, your Daddy will be back next weekend. So don’t be sad.”
His attempt to banish a painful emotion through logical reasoning fails to stop the flow of tears, Aunt Jane is next in line. Unfortunately, she misinterprets the reason behind Joshua’s public mourning. “I know you want to go for a car ride but your Daddy has to leave now. But I have my car here and it has some really fun children’s stories for you to watch. How about we go for ride first thing tomorrow morning? You don’t need to be sad.” Louder weeping is Joshua’s only reply.
Mother has been patient through all these familial efforts to dry her son’s tears. Cookie bribes, stereotypical shaming, rationale explanations and misinterpreting the scene have only left Joshua more distraught. She knows what the little boy needs; he just wants to be heard. If his salty tears could speak, what would they say? The child whisperer utters these healing words:
“Josh, I know you are sad because Daddy’s leaving. I am sad too cuz we will miss him. Right?” For the first time, Joshua allows a tiny smile to permeate his darkness. At last he has been understood