In a little house like any other, there lived a boy and his parents. Mother was a painter and spent much of her time in her studio creating beautiful pieces of art. Father was a writer and could usually be found in his study with his nose in a book or typing furiously at his computer on his next novel. And the boy well, he was just a normal boy, curious about the world around him and about his parents in particular. To the boy, Mother and Father were perfect and he took to following them everywhere they went and copying them in all they did so he could learn to be just like them.
One day, the boy followed Mother into her studio to watch her paint. Perhaps he could learn to be a great painter like her, thought the boy. He picked up a brush, took some paint and, copying Mother, brought the brush up to a canvas to make his own masterpiece.
Suddenly, he felt Mother’s hand close over his and take the brush and paint away from him. Her voice was stern and her finger wagged threateningly as she told him that the brush and paint were not toys to play with and that he should not touch them. The boy didn’t understand why he couldn’t paint like Mother but he didn’t like it when she was upset so he quietly sat in the corner of the room and settled for watching her.
As the boy watched the brush strokes and the painting come to life in front of his eyes, he forgot where he was and came forward to get a better look. The trees and rivers looked so real he felt like he could reach out and touch them. Suddenly he felt a slap on his hand as Mother turned to him looking very angry.
“You can’t touch my painting!” she said, “It is very important and you keep getting in the way. I can’t have you underfoot while I am working. Go into the other room and play with your toys.”
Mother made the boy leave the room and she shut the door so he couldn’t return. The boy was very sad that he had made Mother so mad at him. He didn’t know why touching the picture was so bad, he just wanted to know if it felt as real as it looked. The boy was very upset that he wasn’t going to be a great painter like Mother, since he kept doing everything wrong, and went to play with his toys like he was told.
The next day the boy was feeling happier and decided that maybe, if he couldn’t be a great painter, he could be a great writer like Father instead. So when Father went off to do some work on his new novel, the boy followed him into his study. Father was sitting at his computer typing the latest chapter of his book so the boy sat to watch him.
Soon growing bored as he watched Father sitting there, the boy began to ask questions about what Father was doing. Father answered with a smile at the first question but as the boy continued to interrupt him and ask more and more questions, Father grew annoyed and told the boy that he must be quiet and not interrupt him. The boy was upset because how was he supposed to learn to be a great writer if he couldn’t ask questions? But he thought if he stayed in the room maybe something interesting would happen and if Father was quiet when he wrote maybe he should learn to be quiet too, so the boy found one of his books and sat down to play with it while he watched Father work.
Soon Father got up from the computer to do research in his books. It was Father’s habit to pace the room while he worked, often lost in thought as he considered his research and how it would apply to his book. The boy watched him for awhile then took his own book and began to copy Father’s pacing. Staring down at the book as he walked the boy couldn’t concentrate on where he was walking and he soon found himself crossing into Father’s path where they collided.
Father picked up the boy from where he had fallen and, after making sure he was alright, said in an exasperated tone, “What do you think you are doing? You have to watch where you are going! I can’t have you underfoot like this while I’m working, son. Go into the other room and play with your toys.”
The boy didn’t understand why he was in trouble since Father hadn’t been watching where he was going either and if Father could walk with his head in a book why couldn’t he? He was even more upset this time because now he couldn’t learn to be a great painter like Mother or a great writer like Father. The boy was confused and hurt but didn’t know what else to do so he obeyed Father and went to the other room to play with his toys, even if he didn’t really feel like playing anymore.
Later that evening Mother and Father were sitting in the living room of their home while the boy sat with his toy dolls on the floor. As they watched him play they noticed that one of the dolls was off to the side looking very lonely. Feeling playful, Mother and Father moved to the floor with the boy and asked him what his dolls were doing.
The boy pointed to a girl doll and said that she was painting a great picture just like Mother. Mother laughed and smiled at the boy, thinking how nice it was that the boy admired her so much that he made his doll be like her. Then the boy pointed to a boy doll and said that he was writing a great novel just like Father. Father was so pleased, his smile beamed from ear to ear, to see his boy loved him so much that he made his doll be like him.
Then Mother and Father wanted to know why the other doll was sitting off to the side. The boy said that the other doll had to play away from the painter and the writer because he was always underfoot and getting in the way, so he wasn’t allowed to watch and learn to be like them. Mother and Father were stricken as they remembered what they each had said to the boy in anger. They both reached for the lonely doll at the same time and brought it forward to join the other two.
Mother and Father apologized to the boy for their unkind words. They explained that their work is very important and that they sometimes need time to themselves to get the work done but that they shouldn’t have gotten mad at the boy for wanting to learn, either. They told the boy that he was not in the way and if he wanted to learn how to write or how to paint then they would take time to show him when they weren’t working, just like they would help him learn about anything else he might want to try.
The boy felt better at hearing Mother and Father tell him he could still learn to be like them, but he still felt unsure. The boy was afraid of doing something wrong and getting underfoot again. He didn’t want to make Mother and Father angry ever again but didn’t know how he could do that if he didn’t know that what he was doing was bad.
Mother and Father looked at the boy with love and said, “Sometimes you might do things and we might get angry in the moment, but know one thing above all. We love you son, no matter what you do or what you become, and you will never really be underfoot because we will always want you near.” And the boy hugged his parents tightly, knowing now that they might not be perfect but they would always be the best in the world to him.