The As-Phalt Is Not In Our Stars (A Short Greyson Story)

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.”

~ Cassius, in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Our 4-year-old Greyson has been a word sponge since he was 1. When I read books to him, he often interrupts to say “What’s that mean?” about an unfamiliar word, always making a commendable attempt at pronouncing it. This mildly disrupts the flow of the story, but boy does it make me proud.

Playing at the park the other day, Greyson saw a small black chunk of something on the ground and asked me what it was. I examined it and said “It’s a piece of asphalt” and started to tell him it’s the stuff that makes up roads and parking lots. He interrupted my explanation and said, “What’s a phalt?” I’m not sure if he heard me wrong or if perhaps he remembered the word “ass” from one of his non-kid-oriented animal encyclopedias and figured I was saying two words together — ass and phalt.

I explained that asphalt was one word, but I also took the opportunity to lay out in some detail what a fault is. (That’s the question he asked, after all! And I’m always happy to capitalize on an opportunity to learn.) So I explained that a fault is something we do wrong; a mistake we make. I had Greyson try to think of some of his own faults, like fussing or not listening. As is often the case when I explain a more grown-up concept, I wasn’t sure if he was fully picking up what I was laying down. He’s a very distracted little guy at times. But I figured I was at least laying the groundwork for important conversations down the road about moral culpability and personality responsibility.

Fast forward a few minutes. I scolded Violet for something (I’ve now forgotten what it was; forgetfulness is a fault of mine) and then quickly realized that I had misperceived what she was doing. So I apologized and told Violet that I was wrong to scold her.

Greyson, who was standing nearby, piped up and said, with notable excitement (and zero moral judgment) in his voice:

“That’s a fault!”

By golly, he did pick up what I had laid down!

Two days later something similar happened at the park. I overreacted to something and then admitted my mistake, to which Greyson exuberantly said: “That’s another fault!”

What a genuine delight to see him incorporate my little lesson so quickly, and then to remember it days later. At the expense of the teacher of said lesson, no less! Parenting is nothing if not humbling.

As it ought to be.

Cassius was right after all. The fault, on both of these occasions — and on every other occasion — is assuredly not in my stars. It’s in myself. The challenge is to be able to look at that flawed self with clear eyes and say, as Greyson did, “That’s a fault!” I want to always model that kind of fault-acknowledging self-awareness for my kids.

If I can’t do that, I’ll be just another ass/fault-deflector.

And the world has more than enough of those.


One thought on “The As-Phalt Is Not In Our Stars (A Short Greyson Story)

  1. Jer, that’s one of your best ever! Absolutely love the plays on words. And how much better for Greyson to learn what a fault is than to be able to define asphalt. Let’s pray he also learns to recognize not only your faults, but his own. And at some point down the road of his life, to be grateful for a papa who could admit to his own mistakes.


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