My son is always collecting some new treasure to bring with him back into our house. I will come home from work and there, on the dining room table, laying on the floor in the living room, or sitting on the coffee table will be the collectable — maybe a stick resembling a gun (to him) or a box I attempted to throw away the other night. I will find the boy and ask him why his subjective treasure is in the house; he has no intelligible response besides “Because.” I explain, again, to him why the thing cannot be in the house and have him take it back outside. Skipping the confrontation and explanation with him and me simply taking the object and throwing it out the back sliding door, I have found, only leads to the thing migrating back into our home. My boy must reason “Why is my thing outside, I think it valuable, it must come back inside with me”, or something similar.
The family is finishing up dinner and my son asks Mom:
“Can I have my metal thing?”
“Your what thing?”
“My metal thing.”
“I don’t know, I really don’t like you to have that thing.”
At this point I caught onto the conversation and asked:
“What is it?”
“I will show you.” My wife responds.
She leaves the room and comes back with what looks to be a crudely fashioned stabbing utensil, a shiv, and hands it to the boy. The device measures two feet in length. The blade is not sharp on its edges but the point consists of three or four jutting tips. Composition of the blade appears to be some kind of trim, like you would find along the outside of a car window, but thicker, maybe two or three inches in width. The trim has lost all its luster and is rough in texture, spotted with patches of black grime. One end is wrapped several times over in blue duct tape; the tape is peeling away and torn with the grid patterned fibers showing in spots. Where the tape was cut, completing the wrap, the tape has rolled over forming a braid, hanging from the handle.
After seeing the knife I remember estimating its potential effectiveness. I pictured my son wielding the piece of trim and plunging it into his victim. I determined yes it does have potential, if thrust hard enough, to penetrate the softer parts of the human body.
“Where did you get that.”
“Over at my friends house.” My son replies.
“It looks like something you stab someone with. It looks like a…”
“A knife.” my wife says.
“It looks like a shiv.” I add.
My wife smiles, all the while my son is looking down at the the implement; rolling it on its axis with one hand at each end; his lips are slightly parted shinning with saliva; eyes carefully studying its features. He has found the uniqueness, he knew of the novelty when he had first spotted it, maybe buried beneath the leaves, or sitting forgotten in the drain. He has given the object value due to its uniqueness and sees wealth in possessing the object.
I make some comments about getting rid of the makeshift weapon, as my wife and I finish supper and begin cleaning up. My son moves to the living room and sits on his knees atop the coffee table with the shiv. He sits shoulders drooped, sullen, and dejected. I knew a gentle approach was needed to separate my boy from his unsafe prize. I decided he must see less value in the object.
“We need to get rid of that thing, who knows what is on it.”
The boy raises his expression and looks from the knife to me — a legitimate doubt has been planted.
“Yes look, I think there might be some poop on it, or something.”
“Really”, scrunching his eyebrows and curling a corner of his mouth.
“Who knows. I think the bit of whatever, hanging off there, might be some used toilet paper.”
“Gross”, he says.
The situation dissipates. I do not remember seeing the shiv any more until next morning. I found it sitting on the dinning room table as I stepped out to go to work. My son has already left for school a few minutes before.
“Should I throw this?” Asking, already knowing the answer.
“His shiv? Yes.” My wife answers.
I took it and chucked into the trashcan before getting into my truck.
Being a dad I get to see the very beginnings of a human developing into their own identity. A part of this development must have something to do with an obsession of basic elemental objects (boxes, sticks, rocks, dirt, trash, bugs, bits of metal). This obsession with the seemingly banal objects of life I think comes from the desire for exploration, or these basic elements haven’t lost their novelty to the fresh mind of a child. I can see how the ability of a child to surrender to the slightest notion of uniqueness in life serves the developing mind well, but to the jaded aged mind this childish trait, as with all childish things, has become stupid, boring, annoying, and at most inspires only indifference. Notice I said to the jaded mind — not all aged minds have become jaded to have completely lost the fascination with the simple things of life. I would argue to maintain a degree of this child-like trait is a sign of wisdom and contentment.