Why sometimes it is better to give in to the small things
As I noted in the post prior to this one, this summer has been little fun for me and, really, for anyone living in this household. Stress and tension are overwhelming and even our mini-vacation back to Illinois was more stress and tension and what felt like a lot of pressure in what was supposed to be an easy-going week back home. AJ and I have been struggling to find our way this summer and it feels like we are navigating in a pressure cooker. I have been sensitive to this in the past week and have really been trying to get both of us out of the house and doing things to alleviate some of this build-up.
Lately, for at least two hours a day, I have studied for a test that is coming up next weekend. So, instead of letting him do other things, I asked AJ to come to the library with me and read a book that he has enjoyed in recent weeks. Generally, this would provoke whining and upset, but because of the melancholic timbre of the summer this very peculiar year, he has been delighted to sit in the cool, quiet alcove of the well-lit library on their comfortable leather couches and soak in the atmosphere of the library. When he heard we would not be going yesterday, because it was Saturday and they’d be closing early, he was disappointed that he would not finish his book in the calm demeanor he’d become accustomed.
I have not lavishly spoiled him to make up for the loss of a summer of fun. AJ isn’t entitled to a summer of fun just for being a kid. There are parents that will disagree with me on that statement, but the truth of the matter is that no one is entitled to anything other than safety, love, a full belly and a warm/cool place to sleep. I give my child all of those things, lots of attention and affection, plenty of cool gadgets and he does get to do fun things, but he doesn’t go on lavish vacations and we don’t spend a lot of money making sure every single day overstimulates him to the point where I no longer like who he is as a person. When I meet a parent who does, I often find it difficult to be friendly with both the parent and the child because of the expectations they have as to how people will treat them; Rather, how they feel they are entitled to be treated.
Besides studying yesterday, I planned a small outing to the Nashville Farmer’s Market. I’d never been and AJ and I had gone to the adorable one near our house the other day. He’d studied a pattypan squash and liked it because it looked like a UFO. He’d picked up several other vegetables that I could not identify, to his amusement and to my dismay. I thought that, perhaps, a trip to the market where he could look to his heart’s delight and I could learn about the vegetables might be fun for both of us. They also had a flea market and AJ loves to look at trinkets. Garage sales may be his favorite events on earth.
When we got there, I handed AJ the $6 he’d earned by doing chores every day this week and told him that he could spend it, but carefully and not on junk. Immediately, he focused on a large adults watch with a disastrous amount of bling and a large money sign on it. It was a glowing green color and also came with a large $$ necklace. I bit my lip and hoped that it would be too expensive. Despite my better judgment, I told him he could not ask how much it was and pulled him away from the bling ensemble. As we continued to walk around, he found another necklace he desperately wanted. It was hematite, shiny, and looked like it had a shark’s tooth attached to it. It was gaudy and awful and I knew he wanted it more than anything. Again, against my better judgment, I told him he could not ask how much it was.
My inability to understand his want of shiny, blingy jewelry was too much. His jaw set, he marched ahead of me to the food market and the day was ruined. The shark necklace might have been $2. We continued to argue about it for the next hour. As I picked up tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers and oranges, I thought to myself and wondered if the argument was truly worth it. The money was his and while I knew he’d be happy when he’d saved enough to buy a larger toy, AJ is 10 years old. He wants immediate gratification despite the costs. Even though I’d explained that I did what I thought was best, was it worth the cost? Was the loss of that necklace worth the upset between us and the upset of our day together? The event was planned to offset some of the negativity of the summer. Surely, if he wanted a $2 necklace that he was going to buy with his own money, it wasn’t worth this.
I made a mistake. Adults do it. We decide we know what’s best and we hold firm to in the idea of good parenting practices. Usually, in this vein, we are correct in what we are doing and it is better for our children. However, “don’t sweat the small stuff” is a cliche for a reason, as are all cliches. In this case, my not giving in hurt AJ’s decision-making process and our camaraderie for the day. In the big scheme of things, was that necklace important? To me, it wasn’t. To him, it was. To us, it was. Giving in would have made the difference in how he felt about our time together. We had a large discussion about how material things should not affect our time together and how arguments do. Ultimately, I think we both learned a lot.
Next time, I’ll do better. A small thing is a small thing and day-ruining arguments are best saved for the things that really matter.