When a neighbor informed us that my young son could no longer play with her daughter, I was sad, but I did not argue. I thought it a righteous request. Moreover, to put the best face on a painful situation, I took the chance to school my son in self-restraint.
Even from his infancy, Matthew had been an exuberant child. Life and every desire were matters of gladness for him. He was up with the morning light, loud and laughing and out the door, a host of children in our back yard, but one boy only: Matthew, three years old.
We lived in the country in those days—and in those early summer days, when strawberries fattened and peopled the green patch, Matthew didn’t, as he said, “think two times.” He flew on wings of an aching hunger and satisfied his appetite, smearing the sweet red juice all over his face.
I yearned to delight in life as he did. At the same time, I yearned for him to learn my own self-discipline, because the kid could hurt himself. He could hurt others—and did, and always felt remorse for so doing, but did it again. Well, desire and delight gave Matthew the edge: he got there first, he ate it first, he thought of nothing but sweet strawberries, the sugarjoy bursting against his palate, and he filled himself at others’ expense. At our expense. At the expense of our neighbor’s daughter, who often stood in his smoke.
So then, that child’s mother imposed a prohibition. “Your son is out of control,” she said, and she sundered the friendship. Neither could go to the other’s house. No more playing, no more talking together, no more whispered secrets—no more nothing.
Matthew was sad when I told him this law. Loud delights make very low sorrows, and he ...1
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