I asked him to head upstairs, slip under the covers, and wait, that I would be up in a minute to say goodnight. He did. But instead of a minute, I was up in just 30 seconds, viscerally responding to the uncharacteristic whimpering I heard emanating from his room.
I stood at the foot of his bed, and he greeted my arrival with a plaintive cry. He was face-down, his head under the pillow, and all I could hear was his muffled plea: “Take my Athena statue away. I am not Athena! Take her away!”
His statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, has been sitting on his bureau since I returned from Greece–the most fitting of souvenirs from me for one of the wisest humans I have ever known. We have since had several conversations about Greek mythology generally and Athena specifically. We have talked about wisdom and what it means.
From under his pillow, Oscar told me a story about something that had happened in school that week, a scenario that left him feeling anything but wise. He told me he wasn’t “smart like Athena” and that he didn’t deserve the statue.
It was then that I went over to him, removed the pillow, placed my hand on his head, and asked him to listen. I talked to him about intelligence, about wisdom, about learning from his mistakes.
He listened, intently I think, and after a few minutes he said, “So, if I learn from this, don’t repeat it, and start building again, Mom, I can still be wise?”
And I said yes, that that is exactly what wisdom is–and I looked at the goddess on his bureau, knowing she travelled a long way and is now exactly where she belongs.