Sometimes you just have to write…
Last weekend, I was sitting on the sofa downstairs, playing something or other on my iPad. My son, who’s 14 years old, came down the stairs and announced to me that there was a message on the computer upstairs from the police.
It turned out that he had downloaded a virus onto my husband’s computer by mistake. The message on the screen said he had downloaded child pornography so he’d have to pay a fine and gave information about how to pay it. My son told me that some files had appeared as well, and he’d deleted them, but that the police message wouldn’t go away.
I am pleased to say I stayed calm. I figured it was just a virus, and, rather reluctantly, got up off the couch and went upstairs to try to figure out what was wrong. It took me most of the day to puzzle out how to get rid of that virus, but I did manage it eventually by restoring the computer’s settings from the day before. And I installed some better virus-protection software as well.
But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the fact that, when my son first downloaded the virus, my husband, Albert, was sitting right next to him at the adjacent desk.
My son was so unwilling to approach Albert about the virus – which had infected Albert’s computer, not mine – that, instead, he came downstairs to ask me.
I asked him why he hadn’t gone to Albert. “That would be too embarrassing. And he would be mad.”
I hasten to explain that Albert is one of most gentle, mild-mannered people I have ever met. He very rarely even raises his voice, and a raised voice from him is a normal-sounding voice from most other people. I’ve never seen him even the least bit tempted to use physical violence.
What Albert has is The Look. And the kids are terrified of it. They’ll do anything to avoid it. That is his superpower.
When I went upstairs and started trying to figure out what was wrong with Albert’s computer, of course I told Albert what had happened, and, as usual, he reacted very mildly. Of course, there was the expected groan and a sigh, and a few questions about virus-protection software, but mostly he just left me and my son to deal with it, while he went back to his stamp collection. So there was nothing for my son to be afraid of.
I’ve noticed The Look before, of course. When the kids were small and misbehaving in whichever of the many ways small children do, Albert could simply look at them, silently, and they would immediately stop, and if he raised his voice to tell them to “Stop it!”, they’d sometimes even burst into tears. Somehow Albert’s disapproval hurts, in a way that mine, much more overtly expressed, never does.
Our “extra son,” who’s 16 years old, just explains it as “I’m scared of him.” So whenever he has a problem, or a request, or a confession to make of something he did wrong, he comes to me – never Albert.
What I want to know is: where does this superpower come from, and how can I get some of it?