By: Dr Justin Coulson

As Chad walked into the kitchen he spotted his three-year-old son riding a skateboard around the kitchen island. He was in a hurry, so he quickly told his son to stop riding the skateboard in the house and turned away.

He paused.

His son couldn’t ride a skateboard. He was only three. In fact, his son didn’t own a skateboard.

Chad turned back to his son… and froze. His son was not riding a skateboard. He was skating across the kitchen tiles on a Macbook Pro laptop computer. Fully open. Screen and keyboard  down.

About two weeks earlier, Chad had been working on a major project when his computer had stopped working. With not enough time to purchase a new computer and set it up, he had gone to his neighbour and asked if he could borrow a spare computer for a few days so he could complete the project.  Chad had to complete the project, travel interstate for a week and use the computer for presentations, and then, he promised, he would then return the computer.

Lunging across the kitchen, Chad already knew it was too late. He had left the computer on the kitchen bench so that he could return it to his neighbour, and his son had found it. As he inspected the damage he could see that the screen was scratched beyond repair. The keys were damaged and falling out of their casing. The computer was ruined.

Chad panicked.

What would he say to his neighbour?

How would he tell his wife? Now he was up for two computers. A new one for his neighbour and a new one for himself.

What would he say to his son?

Chad decided to postpone the inevitable. He left the kitchen, biting his tongue. The lecture for the three- year-old could wait. He explained what had happened to his wife. “You’ve got to tell them” she said. But Chad couldn’t do it.

Later that day as he drove up his driveway he saw his neighbour in the front yard. He waved to his neighbour but didn’t say anything to him. Instead, he went directly inside. Over the following week he continued to avoid contact. His neighbour emailed. Chad promised he would return the computer that night, but then “something came up.”

Finally, several weeks later, Chad’s neighbour knocked on the door. “Chad, you’ve been avoiding me. Something has happened with the computer hasn’t it.”

Chad admitted that he had bad news. After explaining what had happened he was surprised to hear his neighbour respond, “Chad, it’s ok. People matter more than things.”

What a great lesson from a wise neighbour. “I hope you didn’t get mad at your son. He’s just three. He didn’t know how serious what he was doing was.”

How often do we, as parents, become angry at the cup of spilt drink, the broken toy, the texter scrawled along the wall, carpet, or lounge suite, or even some of the more costly things our children ruin?

In what can only be described as poetic perfection, as I was writing about Chad’s story in this article, my almost four-year-old daughter, Emilie, came and asked me for a pen so that she could draw on some paper while I worked. I handed her the pen and went back to typing. Within ten seconds I heard a snapping sound. Somehow, she had opened the casing of the pen, pulled out the insides, and snapped the plastic that makes the pen work.

As I looked at her, I saw panic on her face. “I’m sorry Dadda. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. Sorry Dadda.”

Before I could comfort her, Emilie had run for the office door. I found her, a few minutes later, hiding behind the car in the driveway.

I lifted her into my arms and held her. As I did so, I heard myself reassuring her. “You’re upset that you broke the pen aren’t you Emilie? Give me a hug. It’s ok. You matter more than that pen. People matter more than things.”

Article supplied with thanks to Happy Families.

About the Author: A sought after public speaker and author, and former radio broadcaster, Justin has a psychology degree from the University of Queensland and a PhD in psychology from the University of Wollongong.