When We Just Have To Say "No"

As a parent, I’ve learned that one of my favorite things to do is to give our son gifts. If he likes something, I really enjoy getting him little gifts or toys related to that subject. It’s just fun for both of us. Since he’s been born, apparently that’s a favorite pastime of our parents too, as Will has acquired many toys and fun stuff since he was born. (And we are being buried alive in them, but that’s another story).

So, I got a text from my wife Amy today who took Will to the mall for a hair cut. She had promised to take him to a pet store to see the fish tanks in which one of them has a tank ornament that is a jellyfish. It just so happens that our little 3-and-a-half-year-old is a big fan of jellyfish and almost anything else aquatic. Up until this visit, that particular tank ornament was not for sale.

But now it is.

Amy’s text asked me if she can get it for Will because he really, really wants it. She adds that it’s $20. My first reaction is that we usually just get him what he wants if it’s cool and harmless and inexpensive. (And honestly, I’ve blown $20 plenty of times on, um… “office desk ornaments”.) But we’ve been broke-as-a-joke lately, so I just came out with a flat “No” first.

She then sends me this photo:

imageSure, that looks kinda cool, but… is it really suitable for a 3 year old to play with? And how durable is it outside of a fish tank? And he actually already has a plush jellyfish… So I stuck to my guns and said no again.

I get another text from her. It’s this photo:

image2With the caption “Poor thing… I wish you were here.” (The photo still wrenches my heart even as I type this)

And she had a good point. It’s one thing to say “no” over text message and another to tell the child to their face. It wasn’t easy for me to do, but between the two of us, it was easier for me to not have to actually deal with a sad little cutie face. I tried to bargain with him through her, telling her to tell him I recently got him a new little [cheaper] LEGO spaceship for us all to play together (which he wanted for us to do recently), and Amy bravely left the mall without the fishy figurine.

When I saw him later, he begged me to go to the store to buy it for him, but I told him it’s too expensive and he already has jellyfish (and tons of other fun stuff) to play with. He has since mostly let it go, and… guess what… we’re all still alive!

I’m sure God can relate to us being persistent and stubborn children who ask for things and expect to always get our way, but while it wouldn’t have killed us to buy that item for him, I just felt like it was a lot of money to spend on something that he didn’t NEED, wasn’t even really a toy, and we really shouldn’t be spending money on at the moment (and, without it, live does go on, the Earth still spins, Oreos still taste delicious, etc). Plus I do think it’s important to not just get our children EVERYthing they want just because they want it. It can’t be healthy.

But I’ll tell ya this… it’s a super hard thing to do and I do wish, as a parent, we could give them all the desires of their little hearts. But God knows that’s just not always the best or even right thing.

April 15, 2014 Journal Entry – "To Spin or Not To Spin"

Over the weekend, Will got violently ill, waking up in the middle of the night, puking all over his crib. Amy spent most of the next 36 or so hours by his side, even sleeping with him on the couch the next night.

Two nights later, Amy and I were struck with apparently the same sickness at virtually the same time, and we ended up being sidelined for a full day. Thankfully, her parents took Will for almost 2 days so we could recover.

Tonight, Will was back home and slowly recovering from a nap in the car ride home from his grandparents. He was coughing and gagging a lot, but seemed fine for the most part. I was trying to get some work done in my office when a finally smiley Will came running in.

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He hops on my desk chair and wants to survey the decorations on my desk. Then he slides down and slurs something about wanting a “Spin ride.”

So I start spinning him in my chair. The sound of a microwave chiming yanks him out of my office and back downstairs, and so I resume working. But before long, I hear the pitter patter of little hands and feet coming back up the stairs. And, before long, he’s wedging himself between me and my keyboard to get me to spin him in my chair.

I hear that little inner voice saying “Someday… Someday you’ll give anything for him to be 3 again and ask to be spun in your chair.”

So I heed the Ghost of Christmas Future’s warning and get up to spin Will in my chair. Except… he seems to never want me to stop. Finally, I tell him to sit tight for one last spin. But this time, when I stopped it, he gags and puts his hand to his mouth.

I had a bad feeling about this.

With sparing you the gory details, he vomited all over my chair (which has a porous “pattern” on a vinyl surface, mind you). As I stand there in shock, not knowing what to do with my puke-covered child or chair, and with Amy otherwise occupied in the bathroom downstairs, I grabbed my son–who’s now complaining about the smell–and dumped him off in the upstairs bathroom where he was about to have a bath anyway, just as Amy was coming up the stairs, and proceeded to try to salvage what I fear is a doomed desk chair.

The moral of the story? Make time for spinning… but maybe call it “enough” a spin earlier. ;)

To Infirmary… and Beyond!

BuzzMain-Feature-Image

With every week — and sometimes every day — offering new experiences in the parental role, one unexpected encounter came when I went in to have my blood taken earlier this week on Monday.

The unimportant detail to this story is it was a routine check-up on the levels of my thyroid (fun times!), but it’s something I thankfully only have to endure once or twice a year. And one simple fact remains…

I hate needles.

This time, with Will being 22.5 months old, it was a much different experience than the last time we brought him along. With his recent obsession with Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear, Will had his Buzz figure in-hand (well, it was mine, but I digress) — a 5 or 6-inch plastic figure that is perfect for a little guy like him to run around with.

When it came time for me to be ushered into a little room, curtain drawn, with my blood also about to be drawn, I sat down in the chair nervously, put my right arm out there on display and turned my head in the opposite direction. Amy sat in a chair positioned in a way where she could hold the curtain closed and block Will from darting out at any moment. So with us all trapped in there — nurse armed with a needle included — Will restlessly, but quietly, was bouncing around the room. At one point, he noticed how uncomfortable I was and he noticed his momma was trying to console me. I was quiet, but my mind was not. Needles. *shudder*

With my left arm laying across the little table on the other side of the chair, and with Amy’s hand resting on my forearm, Will came to a realization. Something was wrong. It was then the toddler decided that it was more important for me to have Buzz than him. He walked over, pushed Buzz into my open left hand, and turned around. It was as if he was saying “I have no idea what in the heck is going on, but I have a feeling you need ‘Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!’ more than I do.”

Once the nurse prepped my arm and gave me the warning of the needle’s forthcoming – and unwelcomed – intrusion, Will paused his frenetic wall-bouncing to stop and watch my blood being drawn. That in itself was a little awkward, but he seemed entirely unfazed by…and all too curious (uh-oh) about what was happening. When all was said and done (and I had finished using Buzz Lightyear as a stress ball), I handed the toy back to my son with my heart a little warmer. The little guy is awfully protective of his favorite toys, so I knew that gesture was a big one for him.

Parenthood definitely continues to deliver surprises when you least expect them.

Will with Buzz from a different day, on July 14 2012 (He would do this motion if you said “To infinity… and beyond!”)

The Kingdom of Heaven

I marvel at my three year old daughter! I don’t know from where she gets some of her amazing qualities. She’s so unlike me in so many ways and I wish to be more like her in many ways.

We’re often seen at our neighborhood park at least several times a week. Little Miss Social Butterfly is devastated if there are no other children at the playground. Often she’ll just say, “Let’s go home, mama.” But today in particular there were at least five or six other children within her age range. She was in her glory!

There she was, my fairest of the fair beauty (we’re talking nearly white towhead, blue eyes and fair skin) with out so much as another thought playing with other children that don’t look even a speck like her! She makes it look so easy to talk to people she’s never met before. “Hi! My name is Lillie! And I’m here! Do you want to play?”

Meanwhile, I push the stroller carrying my other nearly one year old daughter to a nearby bench and seclude myself in the comfort of its loneliness. Really, it’s just an excuse, if I’m totally honest to not interact with the other parents. My mind wanders: well, they don’t know me, what if they think I’m weird for talking to them, their table looks too full and I would just make it crowded, what if they think I’m some stuck up white person, the dad is smoking-don’t want Evie to be around that, what if I have nothing to say, I have nothing to give back anyway… I totally defeated myself without even starting! I settle into the bench and check out Facebook on my iPhone. Great, now I just look like a parent that doesn’t even care what their kid is doing. And that’s so not me! I’m just, well, uncomfortable approaching someone I don’t know. It’s not natural for me. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

And it’s not that I’m antisocial. I love to have conversations with people I don’t know, but I’m more comfortable when others pursue me. There’s Lillie again, “Mama, can I have a Popsicle?” Sure, honey. One of the other parents went to the store for Popsicles and handed them out to all the kids. She easily asks the mom if she may have one too, a purple one. Gold star, baby, for good manners! The mom smiles sweetly at her and hands her a purple Popsicle. All the kids sit together at the now very crowded picnic table and chat about only things Preschoolers and toddlers find interesting. Later they share chips and Hawaiian punch.

And I just watch. And I’m proud of her. I remind myself that this is all she knows. She’s always lived in the city with all its beautifully colored people. I, on the other hand, grew up rurally in an almost totally pasty white community. I feel so out of place here, so plain, so vanilla, so boring!

As I survey Lillie playing “run around tag” with her new friends, laughing gleefully, I’m reminded that this is what it’s supposed to look like!

Matthew 18 (The Message)

Whoever Becomes Simple Again
1 At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?”

2-5 For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.