Friday, December 9, 2011

Can I Have That Someday?

"Can I have that someday?"

If I had a nickel for every time I heard my son utter that phrase, I'd be able to buy him about half of what he asks for.  And now that it's the holiday season, I hear it even more.  He doesn't beg or cry or whine, but he asks constantly for things.  My standard reply is, "Sure, maybe someday."  I don't even look at what it is anymore.  Someday is pretty broad, so I figure even if he has to buy it himself when he has kids I won't have been lying.

With his birthday and Christmas right around the corner, I'm able to add to my response by reminding him that gift-giving occasions are coming up and he won't be getting anything until then.  This only delays the inevitable though.

Really, I don't know who to blame.  I mean, he's a kid.  Isn't it their job to express desire for things?  Would I be any less annoyed by his material wanting if he simply told me he liked something or something looked like fun?  I doubt it.  And is it wrong that my first response (in my head, not out loud) is that usually the thing is stupid, overpriced and will probably not work half as well as the commercial or box claims it will?

I try reminding him that he's a lucky boy and certainly gets a lot more than I did growing up.  Money is not as tight for our family as it was for the one I grew up in, plus he doesn't have a sibling to have to share the wealth with.  He's probably spoiled.  And sometimes kind of bratty.  I'm not sure he wouldn't act this way even if we did not have as much.  I think gratitude is a difficult thing to learn at his age.  He doesn't have any concept of what it takes for us to get what he has, nor does he really understand that some people don't have even the basic necessities.  Having grown up in a house where I was made very aware that we did not have money did not make me more thankful for what we did have.  It could be the way that was presented to me, but that's another blog post for another day.

I did not become aware of how hard it is to provide for a family and juggle all of the expenses of home ownership, food, health care, savings, vehicles, insurance and, dare I say it, some luxuries until I had a family of my own.  That's not to say we've always had easy times, certainly their were leaner ones, but it didn't hit me until I had a child endlessly asking for things that I realized how lucky I am that I don't have to say, "Absolutely not and probably never."  Maybe truly means what I'm saying - maybe you can have it, if I want you to have it.  Maybe not all of it, definitely some of it, never all at once.  That's a very different answer than I received from mother who was crocheting us Christmas presents for the better part of my childhood (pink individual tissue pack cozy, anyone?).

It occurs to me that until he has to have responsibility and work for the things he wants, he probably won't feel the value of those things.  He will be 5 in a few short weeks and I'm beginning to think it's time for some small chores, perhaps a small stipend.  But will that really do anything?  Let's say I give him a dollar every week when he does a chore. He takes the dollar and puts it in his bank. Then what?  Save it for college or a car or some other thing that he can't relate to?  He knows he has a savings account for that stuff but it means nothing to him.  Sure I could let him spend it on a treat or a small toy, but I'm not sure that teaches anything.  I could make him save up for something, but he has not yet expressed a desire to save up for anything except the time he said he was going to save up to buy popcorn on our upcoming vacation to San Diego.  He also thought popcorn cost a stillion dollars at the zoo the previous year, so clearly he wasn't quite getting it.

As usual, I don't have the answers.  There are things I could try, books and articles from the experts I could read or advice I could seek from family, friends and the public at large.  I'm not sure any of it will do what I really think will just take time and experience on his part to learn.  I just hope he looks back on his upbringing and realizes he had all he needed and more.  Even if I won't buy him the Crayola Crayon Make ($26??  Really? To make crayons? No thank you.)

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  1. Based on my experience, if he's not whining and crying about not getting the thing, he's probably not bratty. Relatively speaking for a 5 year old, anyway. They can all be jerks at that age sometimes. Hey, if they weren't, I'd kinda be worried about them. Also, FWIW, I was never aware that you were poor growing up. Maybe just my general obliviousness. Since we weren't exactly living the high-life, maybe I just noticed that some people had more, not that some had less.

  2. Tim - I think you hit the nail on the head in that, in general, I think children notice when others have things they want and don't have as opposed to noticing what they lack. I'm not sure why that is. I definitely was aware of who had better clothes or toys than I had, but I couldn't tell you who had less.

    9 times out of 10 Nathan settles for a maybe about a toy. He rarely acts out in a store about not getting something either. He usually can handle being told no or not now without a ridiculous amount of whining. He does have his moments though... they all do...