I was trying to teach him a life lesson. How many parenting fails have started out like that? Most? Boy #1 is a pretty easy kid. He’s always in a good mood, up for anything, does what he's told (most of the time), loves people, and is a joy to be around. A couple of years ago he asked Santa for a Nintendo DS and was really hoping the fat man would deliver on Christmas morning.
Like most families, my kids have way too much stuff. The big concern is that they’re going to get to the point where they’re never satisfied with anything because all the crap that ends up in our house. They may not have as much as a few of their friends, but they want for nothing. My big plan was not to give them everything they wanted for Christmas. It’s a good life lesson: you don’t get everything you want and learn to appreciate what you have.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.
So Christmas morning rolls in, and the kids come in every 1/2 hour starting precisely at 3:30. After sending them back to their more than sushi at the airport we finally gave them the green light at 6 AM. They attacked the living room with a vengeance usually only seen by Navy Seals.
They sailed down the stairs like the house was on fire. There were about 15 seconds of silence followed a flurry of activity and a couple of “all rights!!” And then an audible gasp. This horrible sound was followed by very confused, panicked, and dismayed muttering by Boy #1.
“What? ... No, DS?”
It was the same voice Molly Ringwald used when confronting Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink after she realized he was stiffing her for the prom. Confusion and pain mixed with just a whisper of desperation.
He was silent for about 7 seconds, then the very soft, quiet sobbing started. It wasn’t crying, it was much worse. And he wasn’t sad, he was hurt. Then came the worst part. It was like a punch in the face to a parent who is trying to do the right thing. Between sobs, he tried to make sense of the injustice by saying:
“I thought I was good this year.”
I’ve been horrified before. I was horrified when I got pants'd by my next door neighbor in the 5th grade. I was horrified when David Lee Roth left Van Halen. And I was horrified when legendary Hall of Fame college basketball coach Marv Harshman screamed what an idiot I was in front of the entire basketball camp in 1986 after I messed up a fast-break. But this was the topper. I had no feeling in my feet.
At that point, I would have dropped 20 grand on a gold-plated DS and every game imaginable. Hell, I would have bought him a grill with a diamond-studded "DS" and let him wear it to school after New Years. Is there anything worse than finding out that your grand plan as a parent has completely backfired? The message was supposed to be about appreciating what you have, not that you were bad. Honestly, I would have scissor-kicked Santa in the head at this point.
So, how bad did this plan backfire? He got a DS with games for his birthday a few months later. We all need to keep in mind as we stumble through life that having kids is a learning process for parents too.
photo by Richard Elzey via Creative Commons