142. The Lesson

A HUSBAND AND WIFE divorced, and custody of the child went to the mother. The father was allowed to see the child one night a week and every second weekend. The boy was also allowed to stay over for extended periods in school holidays. The father believed that a father’s presence was very important to a boy, and he took his parental duties seriously. He devised a list of qualities he wished to teach to his son, and exercises he thought would impress such qualities upon the child. To teach the boy self-reliance, for example, his father took him to a football field one Saturday afternoon, blindfolded him and instructed him to count to ten. Meanwhile, the father walked away, and when he had counted to ten yelled out to his son, ‘Come and get me!’ He watched his sun stumble awkwardly in a crooked line toward him. ‘Where are you, Dad?’ asked the son. ‘Here!’ the father replied, then quietly changed his position. The son walked uncertainly in the direction the voice had come from. He stumbled and fell, his hands breaking the fall. He froze. ‘Don’t cry. Get up and find me.’ The son heard the voice from another direction; he changed tack, but was more uncertain than ever of his judgment. This went on for some time, with the father changing his position repeatedly. The boy’s lower lip was trembling, it was obvious he was trying very hard to obey his father’s stricture that he should not cry. All was proceeding exactly as the father had intended until, seeing that a middle-aged couple on a leisurely afternoon walk was approaching them with a look of undisguised horror on their faces, he approached his son, removed the blindfold and hugged him. ‘That’s it, kiddo. I’m proud of you,’ he said, tousling his hair, and drove the boy home, impressing upon the child the moral of the lesson before the boy slid out of the car and ran to his mother’s front door. The father waited until the door had shut before he drove off.