I warned her.
I really did. I warned her.
And she just stood there. We needed to get ready. We were late. She knew we were late. So I warned her again. I did.
Still, she just stood there.
And I started counting to 30. I gave her 30 seconds to get it together. Time to get ready. Now. We’re late. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8…. You need to get ready to go. Shoes and socks. Now. 9… 10… 11… 12… 13… 14… 15…. And she stood there. And I counted. And she just stood there staring me down defiantly. Now.
And I counted more. 16… 17… 18… 19… 20. Don’t make me get to 30. She just stood there. Don’t do it. Stood there.
Don’t… 21… 22… 23… 24.
We’ve been here before. The morning battles. The not listening. The stare downs.
Stood there. Not this time. 25…
I took one of her small Lego sets, and I smashed it. Just like I threatened. One of the Lego sets she built piece by piece and proudly displayed. Destroyed. And she ran to her room in tears as Lego pieces scattered across the floor. I didn’t wait ’til 30.
I warned her I was going to punish her by getting rid of a Lego set. I warned her. I wanted to send a message. It was the culmination of all the not listenings. All the morning battles. All the frustration. So I sent a message. I did it. It was done. And immediately I thought, “What did I do?!”
She got ready for school in silence as I picked up all the Lego pieces I could find on the floor, from under the table, from behind the piano. I never found them all. We were so late that there wasn’t even time for breakfast anymore. We’d lost so much time on a useless battle over being late, the endless parenting battling over morning routines, I had to bag up some fruit and cereal for her and we headed out the door. In silence.
I dropped her off and headed to work, and I couldn’t shake it. In one instant, I created a memory she will never forget. Never.
I called my wife, and we talked it out as I drove. She listened. She’s always a good listener. And at some point, she said, “They’re little. We only have them for such a short time.” And she was right. I wanted to punish my kid, and I wanted to send a message. And I did. Unfortunately.
When I got off work, it was already dark. I battled the freeway home, and as I approached the exit for home, I passed right by it. I went to a local toy store and scanned the store shelves and spotted the same Lego set — the one with the little rocket ship amusement rides that spin around. I bought it.
I brought it home and walked up to the house. My little gal was already in her pajamas for the night. She saw the Lego set and smiled. I gave it to her and I said, “I didn’t handle the situation this morning properly. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” And she gave me a big hug. She took the Lego box and dumped out the pieces on the floor and immediately started to rebuild. We started to rebuild.
Still, I know I created a memory she’ll never forget — the day Dad shattered her little Lego set — like little scratches on the surface of their childhood. This scratch was all mine. And I can’t take it back.
But I can do better. And I will.