Maybe it really DOES hurt me more than it does you...

105053-558157-thumbnail.jpgIt's altogether possible that I broke my nephew's heart by using the word "no" for the first time today.

We'd been playing on the floor. On this huge quilt we had fourteen million and seven toys spread out, including a lot of Bright And Shiny Ones That Light Up And Sing For You When You Push The Right Buttons. Lots of laughing for no apparent reason, except that it's just so much fun to see how easy it is to make this kid howl gleefully, with such seemingly miniscule provocation. It was just the two of us and a sense of perfection had settled over the room.

After a while, Mr. Pie started playing alone, kinda' quiet, in that calm, contented-baby way that's fairly rare for this kid. So I got up into an actual chair and talked and sang to him while knitting another scarf. The perfection-blanket settled over us a little more solidly. I think Oscar The Cat had even returned from his hiding place, leaving the suicidal facial expression in the garage for a change.

Then the very cool baby got that look in his eyes and went into action. He crawls really, really fast these days, and is very direct and aware of his desires. At this particular moment he was directed toward a bookcase filled with CD's. I called his name. In a normal, conversational tone...not loud at all. He paused. Then continued. Again I said his name. This time I followed it with "no." Gentle but firm. He paused again. Then actually stopped, raised his head, turned around and sat down, looking at me. Wow! It works!

Then I saw the chin tremble. Followed by the bottom lip. Those eyes filled with the biggest tears I'd ever seen in my life, and he sobbed. This baby, I am not making this up, seemed to be in physical pain at having been told "no." The pain I experienced while watching that baby's face was, surprisingly also palpable.

No, I didn't call out, "go ahead then..." or tell him I was sorry or any equally inconsistent message such as that. But I did get up and go over to where he was, lie down on the floor, propping myself up in front of him at his eye level, told him I loved him very much, then asked could we look at the shelf together and see what it was he'd wanted to see. He cried a little longer, then looked hopeful. So I picked him up, and we went to the shelf together. "What would you like to see?" I asked him. He reached that pudgy index finger out and touched a stack of boxes. "This?" I picked up one of his Baby Einstein CD cases. He laughed, much like he's laughing in this picture, taken a couple of hours later, and my broken heart melted and merged back together.

And you can tell, too...he completely forgave me. This time.