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Last night Brian had a hockey thing so I was alone with the kids. I had recently heard that a woman in my town (who I will call "Maria") had been diagnosed with breast cancer and I wanted to visit her to drop off a card and a book (the card which contained the caveat that I never assume the book will help, but it was worth a shot). I had known Maria years ago but our paths hadn't crossed for a long time.
Teddy took his usual sweet time getting into the car and my next door neighbor was surely horrified at how I yelled at Teddy (for the 20th time) to put the basketball down and get in the frigging car. He did so on the 28th time I asked. Once I calmed down from the whirlwind of getting home from work, wolfing down dinner, and buckling the kids up for our short trip, I started to wonder if I was wrong to bring the kids on this sort of a visit.
I told the kids why we were going to visit Maria--that she was dealing with cancer and that I wanted to bring her a card to tell her that I was thinking about her. They asked me about how I knew Maria and I told them.
With the kids in tow, I made my way up to the front door. When Maria opened the door, she almost immediately started to cry. I had the most vivid flashback of myself doing the exact same thing when I was at the stage she is -- a stage that still includes so many unknowns. Teddy and Annabel stood behind me as I hugged Maria. Through her tears, she asked me if she was going to be okay and I assured her she would. I couldn't see my kids but I knew that they were watching.
I hadn't expected Maria to want to talk to me but she did, so we talked, probably for a solid 30 minutes. Meanwhile, my kids played together like angels on Maria's front lawn.
Now, I love my kids, but I would definitely peg them as of the "high maintanence" variety. They don't typically just entertain themselves, and if they do, it's not usually in a calm and peaceful way. But for those 30 minutes, they did just that. They were perfect.
When we got into the car, I thanked them for being so good. "Why was your friend crying?" Teddy asked me, very concerned.
"Because she has breast cancer and when you first learn that you have cancer it's very scary."
"Were you scared?" he asked.
"Yes, I was. And sometimes I still am. But I also know that I got very good medicines and I'm very lucky for that."
Then we drove on to a nearby field and played some catch.
During that catch, I thought about how well Teddy can throw and catch the baseball. But that wasn't why I felt an overwhelming sense of pride in him. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride because as much of a nudge as he can sometimes be, he also recognizes immediately when someone is in pain. And I can tell it hurts him to see someone suffer.
I can't be certain of it, but I'm pretty sure that Teddy will never forget watching me hug Maria on her front step as she cried into my shoulder. And I'm pretty sure that Teddy was on his very best behavior for the rest of the night because he knew that by doing so, he would help someone in pain. That is what makes me burst with pride for my son. Because while a great catch or a big hit are fun, in the end, it's kindness that really matters.