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How a Simple Act of Kindness From My Son Showed Me He Really Does Listen

We’re always telling him to be good to others. But you never know if that kindness extends into the real world. Now I know.

fatherly logo Great Moments in Parenting

Welcome to “Great Moments in Parenting”, a series where fathers explain a parenting hurdle they faced in a unique way or simply had an occasion of insight that made them think: “Hey, I’m doing okay at this whole fatherhood thing.” Here, Darren, 38, from Charlotte, Virginia, explains how his fourth grader’s reaction to a playground made him realize his lessons of kindness are getting through. 

You try to raise your kids to be good people, to be the type of people your parents would be proud you raised. My mom died a few years ago but I know she’s looking down at us and every day I think, would she be proud of her grandson? Is he being raised correctly?

Now, he is a good kid. He says please and thank you and is helpful at home. He has his moods and he can be thickheaded. We’re always telling him to be good to others and polite — how to walk a mile in another person’s shoes; how you never know what anyone else is going through — but you never know if that kindness extends outside the home where his parents are always nagging on him and into the real world. What does he do when mommy and daddy are not around? Recently I found out that he is a good kid in those other instances. And I was beaming with pride.

Parents are often asked to do a recess duty to help out and be engaged with the kids and the school. A few months ago my neighbor was on duty and afterwards, she knocked on my door with this story. 

During her shift, she saw this group of boys were playing a trading card game. Some sort of Pokémon or Yu-gi-oh or one of those. From where she was standing, she says she sees this other kid, Timothy, come up behind them and ask to join. She obviously didn’t know what was said, but she said she could tell it wasn’t very nice because she watched the kids all look at him and laugh as Timothy slumped over and walked away. It was a scene. Kids were laughing.

It was probably because Timothy didn’t have any cards of his own. This schoolyard gambling is for those who can afford it and the family cannot afford it.

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And I know this because we see Timothy and his mom and older sister in church. The father died of a heart attack a few years ago and it’s been hard on the family. But the family is not well off either. My son is in CCD with Timothy. They see one another at church barbecues. So they know each other. And, I’ve told my son that their family is struggling and that Timothy could probably use a friend. My son is a bit more outgoing and popular, too. Timothy, meanwhile, is very quiet and not the athletic type. Smart boy, though. But I figured my son might be a good ally. 

Anyway, my neighbor tells me that after Timothy walks away, she’s about to go over and talk to him and get to the bottom of the issue. But then she sees my son. He was playing catch with a few other kids and ran over to talk to Timothy. And this is what my boy does: he reaches into his pocket and gives him his own trading cards. Then, the two of them walked over to the crowd of boys, says something, shows them the cards, has Timothy show his, and he and Timothy sat and played.  

Now, I don’t get worked up very often. But hearing my neighbor tell me about this kindness my son displayed? I was proud. I know my mother would be happy. I know my wife and I are happy. It comes down to this: I want my kid to be smart. I want him to be successful. But most of all? I want him to be kind to others especially when others are not. That’s what he did. He did it because his mother and I taught him that. But he did it also because he’s a good kid. To me, that was a great moment, that’s for sure.