There’s a law somewhere that states that if you hold an event for families, you have to do some sort of arts and crafts activity for children. We attend lots of family events, so my preschool son has created quite a lot of crafts.
The thing to know about crafts is that they don’t make good toys. No matter how fun they were to make, they will soon be forgotten. Consequently, most of the crafts my son creates don’t even make it from the car to the house when we get home.
Last night, after a long day of preschool and play, my son discovered a craft he’d made months ago. The back seat, like a receding glacier, coughed up an ancient paper mask from its store of long-lost artifacts. I remembered helping the boy glue plastic baubles to the paper mask. I’d imagined, as I’m sure the boy did, that this creation had been destroyed ages ago by the natural attrition that eats paper crafts.
The child immediately began re-examining the already beat-up mask in the rough, destructive way of four-year-old boys. Soon, both eyeholes were torn to the edges of the mask. “I’m gonna throw this away,” he told me, his tone indicating that he expected me to protest.
“If you’re done with it, go ahead and throw it away,” I replied.
The boy was instantly offended, as if I’d demanded that he destroy a precious relic. “I don’t want to throw it out!”
“Okay. Keep it.”
“Daddy, I didn’t want it to be ripped.” This was said in a whiny voice. He was very tired. “I really don’t want to throw it away.”
“You don’t have to, but you really should have been more careful if you didn’t want it to get ripped.”
I had to turn away to tend to the baby. When I turned back to the four-year-old, the mask was gone. I asked him where it was.
“I threw it in the garbage,” he said in the resigned voice of a boy who, in his own mind, has taken a long step toward manhood by doing an unpleasant thing because he knew it had to be done.
“Okay,” I said.
Then he turned on the water works, leaving me wondering how this long-unwanted paper craft had suddenly been transformed into Old Yeller. He cried inconsolably, as if he had just returned from putting down his lifelong companion. Several unsuccessful attempts to calm him told me that he was beyond the point of reason. The only solution was bedtime.
Today, there has been no mention of the mask. The boy shows no sign that he is haunted by his decision to put it out of its misery. I suspect the mask has slipped into the same memory hole that has vacuumed away all of his other over-tired histrionics. I am the only one scarred by the memory of the night when a boy grit his teeth and did what man has to do.