Nick has always loved cameras. The other day he decided we should make a movie.
“What do you want to make a movie of?”
“The house they’re building.”
The house across the street recently sold and is being remodeled. Our new neighbors haven’t moved in yet. Nick and I have been sneaking over after the workers leave to inspect the changes.
I have a video camera which I got shortly after Nick was born. I turned it on and handed it to him. We crossed the street and circumnavigated the house, Nick recording our progress. On the way back, Nick asked if he could keep the camera.
“It rocks,” he said.
“You can use the camera anytime you want,” I said.
“Nope. Must. Have. Camera.”
I proposed other compromises, none of which were acceptable. No amount of reasoning or good will on my part did any good. The problem amounted to this: He wanted to be the boss of the camera. I was unwilling. Eventually, Nick got angry and stormed into his room, slamming the door. I was left to contemplate, yet again, my inadequacies as a father.
Nora and I have learned that there is no going after Nick when he’s in such a state. He comes out when he’s ready. This time it took about ten minutes.
“We need a family meeting,” I said as he emerged.
Nora, Nick and I gathered at the dining room table. Nick fiddled with the pages of a book.
“What’s the problem,” said Nora.
“Daddy won’t give me the camera.”
“He can use it any time he wants,” I said.
“You can buy another camera for yourself,” said Nick.
Which was true. But that was not the issue.
“Nick,” I said, “Even if I were a billionaire, I wouldn’t buy another camera.”
“You know,” Nora said, “It makes no sense to have two cameras.”
“Why not,” said Nick.
“Because they’re always going out of date. And why would you want two cameras that are out of date?”
Unexpected left turn. This is why, I remembered, I married Nora.
Nick fingered the pages of his book and said nothing.
“Whenever I want to make a movie,” Nora said, “I borrow daddy’s camera.”
You go, Nora.
“Because we are a family that shares.”
Nick put his book down. “I’m hungry,” he said.
The meeting was over. We proceeded into the kitchen for a snack. Since that talk, ownership of the camera has not been mentioned.
What’s the take home? I mean, apart from the importance of having a wife who’s smarter than you are? The take home, I think, lies in the difference between You can use the camera whenever you want and We are a family that shares.
You can use the camera whenever you want is a statement involving only Nick. We are a family that shares gives Nick a context in which to think about things that bother him. It puts him in a story, the positive and continuing story of the family that he belongs to.
Lately when problems arise, Nora and I have been trying to work We are a family that statements into our conversations with Nick. We also use the occasional Nick is a guy who. It sounds sort of hokey. It is sort of hokey. We are a family that doesn’t work in the middle of a storm. But in the quiet after, it seems to matter to Nick.
Sound track from Nick’s movie:
Another dad’s take on ownership: Tales from the Dad Side