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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ninjago is Going to Kill Me



Kallax Shelving Unit
"This is the worst day of my life!" screams Boy 1 as he teeters precariously near my open laptop on the top
of a questionably stable Ikea Kallax shelving unit.

"Why, baby? What's wrong? How can I help?"

"I want to order Kai. Order this one for me right now!

"How much does it cost?"

"I don't know."

"What does the number on the screen say?"

"17."

"How much money do you have?"

Tears streaming from his face, he shoves a pile of crumpled bills in my direction. "You count them," he replies.

Slowly, I flatten the bills with the edge of my hand, one-by-one, until I have four green rectangles lined up flat on the carpet. "Five plus one is six, six plus one is seven; seven plus one is eight. Eight. You have eight dollars."

"Whaaaaaaaaa!" he screams with the power of a hurricane. "Order it for me NOW!"

Ninjago Lego Set 70500: Kai's Fire Match
(Amazon)
"This set costs $17.95, which is almost $18.00. You have $8.00 right now. How long do you have to wait before you can buy it? How much more money do you need?"

"I don't want to wait. I want it right now, so order it. Order it for me NOW!"

"You have to wait two weeks, Baby. Right now, you don't have enough dollars."

"I hate you," he screams. "I hate you."

Parenting is a long series of compromises and decisions that, hopefully, will eventually lead to happy, functional adult people. The problem, however, is that I need to count as one of those adults, and the plans of small people do not frequently align with those of the older generations. Boy 1 had some money, and he wanted to buy a toy. He had less money than the toy cost. He gets five dollars every Monday (one dollar per year per week), and it would take him two full weeks to save enough money to buy Lego set number 70500: Kai's Fire Mech. Two weeks to a five-year-old is a lifetime.

"I hate you!" he yells, again, "I wish you were not even alive!"

This is the part where it is hard to remember that I am an adult and that logical discussions about how I needed to exist in order to reproduce and bring him alive, kicking and screaming, onto the planet are likely to fall far short of their intended mission.

"I hate you; I hate you; I hate you!" he repeats over and over again until he runs into his bedroom and buries himself in his comforter, sobbing. I follow slowly after him.

"I am sorry you are so upset. Is there anything I can do to help?

"I HATE you!" he replied. "I hate you!"

"Would you like me to stay with you and help you calm down, or would you rather rest alone?"

"I wish you weren't even alive!"

I guess I'll take that as an invitation to leave.

Here is where I get to wax poetic about the meaning of life and the beauty of childish innocence, to write reflectively on my growth as a parent and the strong foundation I am giving my children by holding them responsible for their choices and making them accountable for their actions when what I really want to do is turn on Nextflix and let the monkeys run the zoo. I chose instead to hold my ground, to speak calmly, to give him options, to name his feelings.  I get to convince myself and those around me that I am doing the right thing at the right time with the right goals and the right plan. I get to pretend that I can look in from outside of myself and see the positive long-term outcomes of my difficult short-term behaviors.

When my husband came home, I read him what lies above.

"So you had a great evening, right?"

"Sure, Matthew. Sure. Just living the dream."




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