Last weekend my nephew flew into a fit of embittered rage after I beat him three games straight at table top hockey. Not once has he beaten me at anything, not even hide and seek because that’s the kind of aunt I am. He’s five. Maybe I should let him win once in a while but that’s another topic.
The fit of rage ended as abruptly as it started when he yelled at me, “you don’t love me! You never buy me anything!” (anything pronounced, ‘Annnnnnnnie Thennnnnng’ for effect). This from the kid who has a savings account the size of the Greek deficit. Some of the proceeds of which came from myself, trying to balance cash and toys to avoid spending too much money on well...crap... that he would play with once or twice, hoping that a little later the funds would be able to help him out with say, an education! I did something I’ve never done before and summoned his mother and told her what he said. She was unfazed, clearly she’d heard it all before but she saw that I was upset so he was directed to his room. My sister assured me, whilst dragging him down the hallway, that he was just tired. Tired?! He protested, passionately the whole way like he was an innocent victim en route to death row.
The comment still brings tears to my eyes as I write this, I was devastated. My initial thoughts were that I’d betrayed the poor kid by getting him sent to his room but most importantly; I needed to buy him more crap and fast. I took stock of what I’d bought him lately. He was right, I didn’t love him! I never bought him annnnnnnnie thennnnnng! Of course there were gifts on Birthday’s and Holiday’s etc but those clearly didn’t count. Yeah sure I’d recently bought him two packs of mighty beans but what are two packs of mighty beans when the kid next door has hundreds of them!
He’s a blessing of a nephew, smart, inquisitive, fantastically funny and a talented hockey goalie but I can’t forgive him right now for his comment and when I do I know I’ll never forget what he said. I’m sure he’s long forgotten the incident, as he should; the poor child was tired and made a fleeting comment that wasn’t intended to send his aunt to a therapist or to blog about him behind his back. This is my problem not his. I don’t want to reward him for his comment but at the same time I don’t want him to think of me as a person with a mean spirited wallet. A person who claims to love him but never buys him anything.
I’ve decided that if he writes me a story, complete with illustrations, I’ll buy him new books. I’ve asked for the story but haven’t told him about the new books. He’s excited about the task. He’s never been the type of kid who asks for things but it’s been my first real insight into the challenges of being a parent. I don’t envy trying to balance saying yes and no to endless demands for toys and the latest Ben 10 shirts. The Jones’ exist on the playground but they’re meaner, more vocal about who has what and understand quantity and volume seemingly innately. How do you achieve the middle ground of not having them feeling excluded on the playground without turning them into little brats? And how do families with fixed incomes handle these demands? Do parents who can afford to indulge their children give into constant demands for an easy life? Sure, you can tell them that it’s who they are and not what they have that counts, you can tell them this because it’s true. In the world of a child though, it’s tough not to have what your friends have.
I’d love to hear how the parents/guardians/aunts /uncles out there handle the infamous “I want (ad infinitum)”