Of my two scalawags, the youngest one is the one who looks and thinks and acts most like me. He’s overdramatic, but in a funny way. He has a flair of holding onto just the right expression and pulling it out at the most exasperating times (I am thus reminded of ever single time I should have washed my mouth out with soap). He is stubborn as a mule. He makes me crazy because of how very much he is like me, but I get him.
There’s a trait of mine that I see increasing in my eldest child, who is in most ways more like his father, which is freaking me out. This trait is one that, were it mixed in with stubbornness rather than an ability to negotiate and reason that should not belong to a five year old, would feel familiar and manageable. But here, this child is a negotiator. He is a thinker. He is calculating.
My eldest is constantly making a list of what he wants for his birthday. (His birthday is in five months.)
Just in the last week he has asked for a Playmobil helicopter, a new Playmobil Porsche (he already has a Playmobil Porsche), a Playmobil house…the list goes on. Roller skates. A new bike.
This child has dreams. A whole Playmobil city wouldn’t satisfy him, a new bike with gears and new lights and saddlebags wouldn’t satisfy him.
Seeing this personality trait–the eternal dissatisfaction of another human being–up close is both saddening and irritating.
Saddening because he really believes all these new things will make him happy. He really derives happiness from the thought of owning all those things. Now, I am not opposed to Playmobil. I even have my own figurine, “Supermama”, who plays with the boys every so often. But it is his vehement belief that if he had all those things, he would never ask for anything ever again, because those things would make him happy. That’s what makes me sad.
It is irritating, because he is a smart kid. He can argue his case and spin a good tale. He hears my objections and always has an answer. “We don’t have room for a Playmobil police headquarters,” I’ll say. “I’ll keep it in my room.” He says, knowing full well that he and his brother love to play dress-up in his room and daily empty out the prop box onto the floor. “You don’t keep toys in your room.” (An annoying little rule we made up so he will not wake up so early. Only books and dress-up costumes like hardhats, ropes, scarves, headlamps.) “I know how to read time. I won’t play with them until 7:00.” He is conniving. That’s what irritates me.
Obviously, I am struggling with my own brand of “I-want-ism”, and seeing it in my own child shows me that a) this is common to all humans and b) he has had a very bad example in me, that he is able to argue and covet his way into his current state.
As I watch my eldest go through this phase (and I do sincerely hope that it is a phase), I am trying, with some distance, to determine what set him along this path. What flipped the switch on his craving for something new?
I know what does it for me. All I have to do is be around too many people or step foot in a store for the dissatisfaction to start. What does it for him? He hasn’t gone to a friend’s house in a year. We don’t take him to stores. We allow 30 minutes of educational videos per day, and he always skips the commercials on YouTube.
I know how impressionable they are. Back when I got my Elf Boots back from the cobbler, and I spent some time waterproofing them, the boys got out their shoes, too. They wanted to do what I was doing, and the next day, were all excited to wear their freshly waterprotected shoes. Maybe I need to spend some time cleaning my bike so that they see me loving what I already own. That might get them excited to take their bikes out.
These are boys whose favorite place to play is on top of pile of sticks in the woods or riding their bikes on a bike ramp, yet have a list of wants three miles long. They are their mother’s children.