Assessing Importance of Things and Events

We were not even 3 miles from the Roots Restaurant when Robert became agitated. He checked my backpack, he checked the large bag with scarfs and gloves. From the back seat, he tried to reach to packets in his dad’s jacket. “Hat, hat, hat, hat”, he kept saying.
Then a phone rang. The waiter called to let us know that we left the hat in the restaurant.
We could turn back and pick up the hat. But we did not. Without a discussion, we came to the conclusion that turning from our long trip home to retrieve the hat, was not an option.
For once, we planned to come to Ruthland again in two weeks. More importantly, we knew that we can survive without Robert’s hat. We also knew that Robert can survive as well.

Just a few years before, that wouldn’t be possible.
It was this kind of late summer day, during which all of the continental America was basking in the hot sun, except, that is, San Francisco. San Francisco was windy, cold, and humid. Still, we promised Robert a duck tour which he missed that year in Boston. So we bought tickets and climbed the amphibian vehicle. Out seats were at the end of the vehicle. It was too long a trip for such a cold and windy day, and I was not the only person to be relieved when we finally climbed out of the water and were returning, via Embarcadero, to the original stop. It was somewhere between Pier 29 and 25 when sudden gust of wind grabbed Robert hat and carried it away. Robert sprung up as if ready to jump over the locked gate at the back of the vehicle. We held him back. “Hat, hat, hat!”, he screamed in his most dramatic high pitch. He calmed down slightly when we promised him, insincerely obviously, that we would get his hat back. Nonetheless, he kept calling for his hat almost constantly while we descended the amphibian DUKW, walked to our car, and drove.
Again, without discussing it, we knew, that without finding a hat, Robert’s and mine last three days in California would turn into torture. So, we drove toward Embarcadero. It was a traffic hour, and the car moved slowly. The chances to find an old, ugly, worn, dirty hat, were rather null, still, we didn’t’ have any other option but to try. After almost an hour in a traffic, Jan noticed on the other side of the street, a little dark spot. He made a U-turn, stopped the car, and ran to the median to get this object. It was Robert’s hat. Amid honking, beeping, and tires screeching, Jan ran across the street waving triumphantly the ugly, dirty, worn out baseball cap with its Red socks logo, long gone. It was crazy, it was dangerous, And yet it was the only thing to do. It was then.

Now, we drove on while Robert kept asking, “Hat back.” His voice, however, was not dramatic. In a matter of fact manner, Robert let us know that his hat was not in the car. Not convinced that we understood, Robert repeated himself every minute, then every few minutes, then every quarter. Every time, Jan or I replied, “You forgot the hat in the restaurant. We are not going back.” When Robert heard the word “back”, he immediately understood that going back might be a solution to his problem, so he intensified his request, “Back, back, back, hat back.”
“No, we are not going back. We are going home. Home is important. Safe driving is important. Hat is LESS important.”
And from that moment until the end of the trip, the same dialogue repeated itself quite a few times as I considered the forgotten hat to offer Robert a great chance to learn to differentiate between what is more and what is less important.

I could not overestimate the value of such skill. In the past, small things caused a lot of hard to contain drama related to disappearing things.
In 2006, an eraser fell off from the tip of Robert’s pencil and disappeared. To placate distraught Robert, the whole school seemed to look for it without a result. In 2010, a tiny screw from Robert’s glasses fell into the mud by the lake. Tragedy! Just last year, Robert’s wallet was stolen from his locker. Two full days of dealing with the loss I describe in the post https://krymarh.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/surviving-the-doomsday-sort-of/

There was no way to explain to Robert that all those things didn’t require such strong emotional reactions when he was in the mist of despair.
When San Francisco wind stole Robert’s hat, Robert was not ready to accept that loss calmly and correctly assess magnitude of the event.
This March, however, he was prepared for the first lesson on importance of things and events and that is why I kept repeating, “Home is very important. Our safe trip is important. The hat is less important”
But then, was that a lesson on importance of things, or on accepting the loss? Maybe both?

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  1. Predicaments and Language Concepts | krymarh

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