Tony Woodlief | Author

The Little People

I know, it’s been awhile. You knew that was the arrangement when you first started coming here, so don’t give me the guilt trip. Even though I don’t always write, I often think about you, my faithful and oft-scorned readers. I think I mentioned last time that I started a new job. It’s taken a lot of time.

<Jim Carrey voice from Dumb and Dumber> A LOT </Jim Carrey voice> of time.

So that’s why I’ve been absent. I’ve made time to write today, though, if only because the alternative is to bore my staff with stories they probably don’t want to hear. So I bring them to you.

Caleb has finally discovered that one of the benefits of being a big brother is that one can “try things out” on one’s smaller siblings. Last week we were all outside: me laboring over a dying lawn, the wife giving me encouragement from the porch — it’s so convenient to be pregnant during the yard work season — and the boys occupying themselves. Caleb’s self-appointed chore was to walk about the yard with a fat pair of plastic pliers, “fixing” the trees.

“Caleb, don’t bend the branches with your pliers,” instructed the wife.

This is what happens when you take away productive work from a man. The boy stood there for awhile, and then he wandered about aimlessly, and then he decided to “fix” Eli’s ear.

“Ow, Cayeb!”


I made Caleb sit for several minutes, to think about why he shouldn’t have done what he did, or at least about how to do it without getting caught next time. I’m not a big fan of the time out, primarily because I see it used by people whose primary goal is not the proper training of their children, but rather to secure a temporary vacation. Sometimes I use it nonetheless, when a little whack on the behind seems overzealous. I know, I know, without proper discipline my child may not get in to Harvard. I take comfort from knowing that some people turn out to be decent human beings without the benefit of an Ivy League education.

So after a proper period of mourning for his sin, I released the boy back into the wild. He jumped on his little bike (note to self: explain why boys should be careful getting on their bikes, or make Caleb wear a cup) and pedaled around the driveway. After that grew tiresome he conquered the mulch pile that has been sitting in our driveway for two weeks (sorry, Honey). A good while later, he returned to the pliers.

Immediately came the protests from the peanut gallery on the porch, where Eli had joined his mother to lounge in comfort while awaiting my coronary, and the substantial accompanying life insurance payment:

“Don’t hurt my plants, Caleb.”


“Don’t squish my ear, Cayeb.”


Little Eli has learned to give a number of instructions like that. “Don’t step on me, Cayeb.” “Don’t take my train, Cayeb.” “Don’t squirt me wif dat water, Cayeb.”

I think it’s good practice for life. We should all have the confidence to tell others not to infringe on our person or property. There’s also a lesson in all of this for Caleb, though he doesn’t yet see it: Eli is catching up to him in size, plus his little brother has no fear. Thus will the oldest boy learn the lesson that it pays to be nice to the little people — not only is it the Christian thing to do, but more importantly, some of them may outgrow you.

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