Posted tagged ‘entitlement’

Distraction

July 16, 2009

It’s hot but the pint of ice cream I’m holding is still rock hard.  My four year old and I are taking turns digging around the softer edge for scoops of chocolate and chips.  He is fully engaged in this process, which means he’s no longer whining and sniffling, thank goodness! 

We’ve come to the third floor of town hall to hear live music.  It’s an old dance hall space in a former school turned town offices and police station.  Our neighbors’ daughter is singing with a friend, trying to be heard above the crackle of the sound system and the din of small children running about.  It’s threatening to rain which is why we are packed into this tiny auditorium in the heat of July.  The music doesn’t interest my child.  Ice cream.  Chocolate with white chocolate chunks.  A treat meant to distract; works like a charm for the moment.

He has cried for the past hour.  Sincere tears born of frustration at misunderstanding. I finally agreed to order his “favorite” transformers costume from a mail-order catalogue.  He’s been looking at it for weeks, the pages of the mailer crumpled and worn.  He has no idea about transformers beyond what he’s seen in the magazine he cherishes.  He’s never watched them on TV and doesn’t play with them at home.  He’s fascinated by the blues and reds and silvers of the jumpsuit.  He’s smitten with the full face mask and helmet and the armour along one sleeve.  So, I agreed to order it for him.  He sat in my lap while I spoke to customer service.  He could hear her asking me my address.  She could hear him asking when she was going to drive it to us.  She told me to tell him she’d tell the driver to hurry, but that it would be here by Monday or Tuesday.  After I ended the call, I showed him the calendar and tried to explain Monday or Tuesday.  He understood only that it would not be arriving this very day.  And so, the tears began.  He told me we should just go sit on his bed to wait for the delivery truck.  I told him we should just do our regular stuff while waiting.  The tears came harder. 

We walk into town and for a moment  he is distracted by the maple tree “helicopters” he finds on the sidewalk.  He doesn’t greet our neighbors.  He doesn’t smile.  Every few minutes, he sobs a bit and starts in with the questions–“why isn’t it coming today?”  We walk to the market for our ice cream and he scowls at the cashier.  He drags his feet along the sidewalk, wallowing in his Optimus Prime induced misery.  We arrive at the show and soon he is engaged in scooping and swallowing. 

What is the lesson here?  As a parent, I am annoyed by the whining though I am compassionate, too.  He just doesn’t understand mail-order.  He’s four.  He wants it now.  I am patient.  I tell him to use big boy words.  He does for a moment or two.  I am enthusiastic with distractions.  They work for a moment or two.  It is not my boy’s behavior in this moment which is under my skin.  It is the nagging sense of entitlement and gimme and consumption.  My frustration is how to teach him that this costume, for which he longs and about which he cries, is a luxury?  How does this moment reflect my own need for simplicity and gratitude?  It doesn’t; thus my conflict, thus my annoyance. 

And the solution?  One of my dearest friend’s sons owns this very costume.  When I tell her about my son’s drama, she offers his costume to us.  Her son has outgrown it.  He is happy to pass it along.  In a moment of serendipity, my child gets “instant gratification” and I can cancel my order and reduce, reuse, recycle…Optimus Prime lives on.

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