RaisingDad: Guilty Me

Adventures in chicken land


My eight-year-old granddaughter and I were on the west side of town picking up her new glasses. We live on the far east side of town. Why we had to drive all this way, you'll have to ask my wife. She's beautiful, but she has no sense of distance.

“Are you hungry?” I asked her as we left the eyeglass store.

“A little,” she said.

“What would you like?”


Fortunately, there’s always one close by. The last time we stopped at this particular one we took our food to a hiking trail and had an adventure. That was before the Great Toilet Paper Shortage. She must have been five or so. The time before that she was four. We were sitting next to the playground, but the rule was she had to finish eating her food before she could play. A lady was sitting next to us. She had a boy and girl my granddaughter’s age, and they were already playing inside. I had to, um, wash my hands, so I asked the lady if she would keep an eye on her. She politely said, “Of course.” I told my granddaughter to be a good girl. 

“Of course,” she politely copied.

I was only gone a few minutes. When I got back the lady told me, “Your granddaughter is a sweet girl.”

“Thank you,” I said, and complemented her kids in return.

“She’s so cute. While she was waiting she was singing Despacito.”

“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi was my granddaughter’s favorite song. As it turned out, it was that lady’s favorite song as well.

“Thank you for watching her,” I told her.

“It was a pleasure,” she said.

This time we ate inside the restaurant. Actually, she ate. I wasn’t hungry, so I just had a shake. A shake that she ended up drinking. 

“Oh, the playground is open,” she pretended to notice between chicken nuggets. I think part of my granddaughter wanted to go inside and play, but another part of her realized she was getting to be too big for that. When she was three, she accidentally kicked another child in the head as she was climbing down the different levels. I’d tell you that story, but I don’t think the statute of limitations is up yet.

As we were leaving, I saw a lady and her son sitting on a patch of grass on the other side of the drive-through. I also noticed they had a grocery cart filled with their possessions.

 “I think they’re homeless,” I told my granddaughter as we were climbing into my pickup truck.

The smallest bill I had was a twenty. It wasn’t exactly burning a hole in my pocket, but something inside of me wanted to take my granddaughter over there and give it to them.

 “Let’s go and give them some money,” I told her. 

I thought she’d jump at the chance. She has the kindest, most generous heart, especially when you compare it to mine.

“I don’t want to,” she said, settling herself in the back. “You go, and I’ll wait here for you.”

“I can’t just leave you here,” I said, surprised at her response. 

“Well, we can drive by and you can give it to them,” she said.

“No, we can’t. They’re not by the street.”

“Besides,” she kept making excuses, “ I don’t even think they’re homeless.”

Try as I might, there was no convincing her. I started my truck. In her carseat, she was looking at the book she got with her kid’s meal. As we were driving away I told her, “Later tonight, you’re going to think about them, and feel bad that we didn’t give them any money. You’re going to wonder if that little boy is hungry, and think about how you could have helped.”

Sometimes I have to watch what I say, because it finally occurred to her that what she did was wrong.

“Let’s go back,” she told me.

“It’s too late,” I told her. “The time to do something is when you have a chance, not when you’ve already left.”

“Please,” she said, starting to cry.

“It’s too late,” I told her.

She cried all the way home, Not just crying, but huge sobs from a broken heart. I tried to think of something to say to make her feel better, because it wasn’t my intention to hurt her, but I couldn’t find the words.

She had stopped crying by the time we got home. 

Before I turned off the truck, I told her, “What happened is between you and me. You don’t have to tell anybody what happened, okay?”

“You didn’t even give me a chance,” she said.

“I gave you plenty of chances,” I told her.

In a quiet voice, she finally said, “I’m sorry.”

Later that night I checked in on her and she was sleeping like a baby. 


Not so much.

“What’s bothering you?" my wife asked me.

“Nothing," I said, but I lied.

I was wondering if that little boy was hungry.


A guilty conscience makes for a lumpy mattress. theduchenebrothers@gmail.com