“Private party,” my son said to a kid climbing up the inflatable slide set up at the park for a friend’s birthday.


He said the words without hostility. I knew he was only repeating what he’d been hearing the other children say since the party crasher had jumped aboard, but still…uh-UH.

I called him by his first and last name. “Come here.”

“I don’t like you to exclude people,” I said to him. “We don’t do that. It’s not nice to make someone feel left out.”

He looked down. “Okay.”

I thought about telling him that the cool thing to do would be to make friends with the new kid, and then tell the others, “He’s with me.”

But it was a party, not an episode of the Book of Virtues, so I smiled and and let him get back to having fun. He bounced off.

There were a few other parents within easy earshot of my little teaching moment. And though it pains me to reveal to you what a douche I can be, I’ve got to admit, I reared up a little on my moral high horse.

Catch that? We don’t do that.

The hell we don’t.

Not fifteen minutes later, I caught myself having a laugh at someone else’s expense. That moment was also within earshot of others. If they knew me well, and they knew the person who was being chuckled about, and the situation, they might have thought none the worse of me. But to anyone not in on the joke, it would have sounded mean.

As soon as I realized it, I was ashamed. And not because it obviously contradicted my mini-lecture to my son of moments before, either. Oh, no. See, you got that right away. It took me hours to realize that in addition to being a jerk, I am a hypocrite. I was just ashamed of the being-a-jerk part.

I stared at the ground, wishing I could disappear. I stole a cowardly glance around. In my imagination, everyone had heard me snickering. Everyone was thinking what a harsh and hateful bitch I must be. I’m a fraud. I’m no good. I make baby Jesus sad.

Then my son bounded by, and it occured to me to look at my mistake the way I had looked upon his; the way a loving parent looks at your shit when they catch you knee deep in it. 

In my heart I heard the one who brought me here calling me by name.

Hey. We don’t do that. 

Okay. I’m sorry.

Can you feel a smile you can’t see? I believe so.

Now get back to playing.

If anyone had been watching very closely (oh, the conceit of imagining others are listening to every word, watching every step), they would have seen me lift my head, and move on with a little bounce.