Arnold was six years old when his mother, Lara, found love again in John, a man too dedicated to his country. John was a soldier, and when Lara married him, she thought it would be enough to put her naughty little boy in his place with strict rules and discipline.
Arnold fought over even the silliest things and made a scene for almost everything. He would fight with his little sister, Maya, over candy, pull her hair and foment disputes. The things Arnold did were annoying, and anyone would want to yell at him. But you would melt at the sight of his big brown eyes, watching you as he said, “I’m sorry, it was a mistake, I won’t do it again!”.
Lara and her two children from her previous failed marriage moved in with John after the wedding. They spent two years filled with happiness, but things slowly got worse for the family after John became jealous of the love between his wife and stepchildren….
Arnold, then eight years old, began to notice differences in his stepfather’s attitude. John would scold him for simple things like not giving him the TV remote control or laughing with his mom in the kitchen.
“When I was your age, I learned to help my parents. I did all the chores around the house. Look at you. Your mother spoils you so much,” he would often tell little Arnold, who could do nothing but duck his head and then look at his mother with big, pleading eyes.
The little boy would often think, ‘What’s wrong with my daddy,’ but he would let it go, doing things that kids his age did, like listening to music, skateboarding or riding his bike.
Day by day, John’s cold attitude toward his family, especially with the children, worsened. He stopped paying attention to the little ones and did not participate at all in their upbringing. Since Lara worked in a private bank, he made her responsible for raising them alone.
It wasn’t that John was running away from his duties as a family man. But he simply wasn’t ready to do anything for his wife and children. He loved Lara, but he was not yet mentally prepared to accept her children.
Although Lara was unhappy with the transitions in John’s behavior, particularly with her son, she couldn’t say much. She was afraid he would leave her like her ex-husband, and getting along without him was the biggest worry that haunted her. Lara was not prepared to take that risk again and silently endured her husband’s coldness.
One day, John was called back to the military base due to an emergency. Lara knew how much her husband loved his country. Although she was upset that he was leaving too quickly, she couldn’t help but fake a smile. She worried about Arnold and his tantrums because he was obedient while John was home. Now that he was going to be away for a few weeks, she knew she would have a hard time getting her son to behave.
But when a week passed and all seemed to be well with Arnold’s behavior, Lara was relieved. However, the young mother soon received another powerful blow. She broke her leg and hand in a minor accident on the way to the bank and panicked when doctors recommended bed rest for a few weeks.
“How am I going to cook for my children? I can’t leave them at school in this condition. They have their exams next week,” she shouted, unaware that Arnold was watching her from the doorway with a plan in mind.
The next morning, Lara woke up to something burning in the kitchen. She grabbed her crutches and ran outside to check, and saw the toaster with burnt toast sticking out.
“Arnold, honey, what’s going on here?” she became alarmed when she saw the house full of smoke.
“Mommy, why did you come here? I was making breakfast, I’m not going to school today. You need to rest. I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.”
“But honey… Where’s your sister?” Lara panicked after not seeing Maya around.
“I walked her to the bus stop and stayed until the school bus picked her up. She’s at school now.”
Lara was amazed. For a moment, he didn’t seem to be that naughty boy who constantly teased her. It was strange, because various emotions of guilt, joy and sadness bombarded Lara when Arnold broke the silence again.
“Mommy, here’s your breakfast. Warm milk. There’s an omelet. And toast!”.
Lara couldn’t help but laugh.
“You’re turning into a grown man! I’m impressed. But I can take care of myself, okay? Be a good boy and get ready for school.”
But Arnold wouldn’t listen.
“No, I’m not going. I’ll stay home and take care of you,” he said.
Lara was too tired to argue with her son. She kept pestering him to go to school so he wouldn’t miss exams, but the boy turned a deaf ear.
“Mommy, if you love me, please let me do it for you,” he cornered her excitedly.
It was a sweet threat, and Lara couldn’t refuse, but insisted that she would allow him to help her only if he went to school.
“That goes for you too, young man! If you love Mom, you’ll be a good boy and go to school. Only then will I let you do all this. Is it a deal?” she said.
Arnold agreed and started going to school the next day. He went from school to household chores like an adult. He put loose screws in the door like a professional repairman. He made breakfast from recipes in his mom’s cookbook. But the dishes Arnold made lacked flavor. Some were overcooked and burnt. Yet everything was made with love and care.
He did laundry, mowed the lawn every weekend and even learned to braid his sister’s hair. Lara was touched and one day, while Arnold was busy with housework, she took a video of him and sent it to her husband, hoping he would be impressed as well.
“You didn’t say anything. Look, our son is behaving like an adult. I’m so proud of him – he’s already becoming a little family man!” expressed Lara as she spoke to John on the phone.
“Yeah, whatever. I’ll be back soon. Talk to you later,” was all he said. Lara was hurt, but didn’t make it an issue, thinking her husband was busy.
A few weeks later, John returned home and saw Arnold mowing the lawn. He frowned at him with a disappointed look and didn’t stop to praise or even greet him. Arnold’s efforts did not please him at all, and it showed. Even the boy knew it, but ignored it because he knew his stepfather would act that way.
John’s cold attitude hurt Lara. She thought he would at least appreciate and be kind to her son, but she was wrong. And it was the last straw when John insulted Arnold for not adding enough sugar to his coffee.
“You’re an insolent little good-for-nothing. You don’t even know how to make coffee,” he shouted and poured the coffee into the sink.
At this point, Lara lost her patience and jumped in to defend her little boy.
“Stop it, John. Be nice to my son. Otherwise, don’t expect him to do things for you. He’s our son, not your servant. He handled everything when you were supposed to do it for us,” she said, infuriated.
John’s ego was bruised.
“Ah, you think you can get along without me? With your little boy doing things for you, huh?” he argued.
“I thought I couldn’t do anything without you. But my son gave me confidence!” said Lara.
The day ended badly and Lara was forced to think about her children’s future. She could no longer allow John to be rude and unkind to them and made a difficult decision.
“Really? You want to do this?”, John was startled, when Lara served him with divorce papers a few days later.
After another bad run in love, she divorced John and returned to her former home with her children.
Lara was ashamed of herself for allowing the man to be rude and unkind to her children. She knew it would be difficult, but her little Arnold would always be there for her and her sister.