The next two morning weren't any better. In fact, they got a bit worse. Tuesday he got worried about school while we were in the car. Wednesday he started crying before we got out the door.
This was not going well. He was still happy enough at school and cried when Mommy tried to bring him home again, but we could see the pattern developing.
So Wednesday morning as he began to have a fit, I stood apart and prayed to know what we could do for him. For a moment I saw my son more clearly. He wants to be happy. He needs to be happy. He needs everyone to be happy. I need to give him an excuse to be happy. Make him a deal. He wants you to help him be happy.
I stepped back into his view and asked Hyrum an important question. "Would you like Mario to come with you to school?"
He stopped crying. I had his full attention. Mommy had been quite firm that toys were not going with him to school. I wasn't sure at that moment how much I'd need to bargain with both of them or if I could pull something off with her approval, but I felt like I was on the right track.
"Would you like Mario to come with you to school?" I asked again.
Yes, he said.
"Hyrum, if we let Mario come with you in the car, will you be happy to go to school?"
There was a long pause as he thought about that one. "Yes."
"Okay. Mario will come with us in the car" - I was dropping him off Wednesday because I had a doctor's appointment right after. "and he will drop you off at school, but only if you are happy about going to school."
Joy approved, reminded Hyrum [and me] that Mario was not to go in the school, and the three of us - Hyrum, Mario, and me - set off. He thought about being sad at one point in the car. I reminded him of the deal and he plastered on a smile for me. We got to the school and he started getting ready to cry again. I told him that if he cried, Mario would not come and pick him up. If he stayed happy, Mario would come and pick him up after school. [Don't mess with me, man. I'm an economist. I understand incentives.]
That was enough. We walked up to the school together and marched to the classroom. He was clearly nervous and ill at ease, but he put on a brave face. We went to hang up his coat in the closet where I gave him the blessing.
"Sit in your lap," he asked.
What do you want, Hyrum?
"I want to sit in your lap and talk."
So I sat down and asked him what he wanted to talk about.
There wasn't any definite reply to that, so I just held him for a moment.
I asked if he wanted me to sing a song. Oh yes. Which one? Tarantara.
A very good pick, I thought.
"When the foeman bears his steel/ We uncomfortable feel./ And we find the wisest thing/ is to slap our chests and sing/ Tarantara!"
I sang his little courage song to him, sitting there in the coat closet on his third day of school. We got to a dancing part and I stood up, took his hands, and we danced around in a circle in the coat closet. Then we got to the finale "We go! We go! Yes, forward on the foe! Yes, forward on the foe!" at which point the Major General interrupts and everyone stops moving. [The video shows Hyrum's reenactment back in March.]
Well, I started marching him out of the closet on "We go! We go!" and paused just at the entry way to the rest of the classroom. All the kids' eyes were on the two of us and I realized what a very silly Daddy I was. But now was not the time to think about that. "We go! We go!" I sang and we moved forward bravely into the room.
We found a toy, sat at a chair, sang a few more choruses... and then I stood up again. "We go! We go!" I sang my way out to the door. I turned at the final pause, waved to him and blew him a kiss. He looked so ... indescribable sitting there. Forlorn, resigned, brave, afraid, loved, ... I turned and marched out, singing to the end.
I got to the car and sat weeping, a horrible mix of emotions as jumbled as my son's. Of them all, the strongest emotion was gratitude for Gilbert and Sullivan, for the power of music in my son's and my life, its ability to comfort and strengthen and bond. Hyrum trusted me and I was able to help him through our mutual musical obsessions. Just feeling that bond and gratitude was overwhelming. I thought about the things I really don't want to do but that Heavenly Father knows I need to and how He helps me to see them through...
Thursday morning early Joy and Hyrum dropped me off at the airport. I flew to Denver for my job market conference. There were several moments where I was afraid and would have done anything to stall the appointed hours of judgment. I found a bathroom, prayed, ... and sang [very, very quietly]. "Yes, forward on the foe! Yes, forward on the foe! ... We go! We go!" And it was actually pleasant. Thank you, Hyrum. Thank You, Father