It was Mother’s Day and my kids were waking up at my house, where I live with my second wife and her daughter. My ex-wife and I share custody, and the kids go back and forth between our house and hers. My son was around 11 years old, and he was grumpy with his sister, who was thirteen at the time. She said something nasty to him, and he called her the “b- – – -” word, loudly. I told him he could not talk to his sister that way.
My son fell apart, sobbing, and shut himself into his room. He kept saying that he had “ruined Mother’s Day,” and he wouldn’t open the door. I could tell he was lying on the floor crying, but I didn’t want to be in the overbearing father role, so I lay down outside the door, fairly near him, but with the shut door between us. He cried and cried, saying he had messed everything up, no one liked him, and all sorts of other feelings of defeat and rejection were pouring out.
I didn’t say very much. I just let my son know I was right there with an occasional “Yeah” or “Uh huh.”
At one point our miniature dachshund scratched at his door. My son stopped crying, opened the door enough to let our dog into the room with him, and went right back to crying. I lay there in the hallway, listening, until my son was quiet.
After about half an hour of quiet (he may have fallen asleep–it had been a deep cry), my son came out of the room with our dog. He was relieved and able to connect with me, his sister, and his stepmom. I made the kids some breakfast and ran them over to their mom’s place with cards and flowers in tow.
All was well for the rest of the day.