My kids love a book called Baby Knows Best about a baby who has everything a baby could possibly ask for but all she really wants is to play with newspapers, eat food the grownups are eating, and basically have everything she’s not supposed to have. I think they like the book because it’s funny and true. My kids definitely have a “grass is greener” attitude going on. They can’t wait until they’re grownups and can have all the fun toys Dan and I enjoy, all the privileges and none of the responsibilities.
I can’t say that I blame them. I have the same sort of attitude in reverse. I’d love to have their level of responsibility while maintaining my current level of freedom. Naps all day and easy chores, while maintaining the ability to stay up late whenever I want to, drive a car and spend money at my discretion.
Speaking of spending money, Laylee’s seventh birthday will be here soon and as a parent, I should probably buy her some sort of gift. Sadly, none of the things on her wish list exist. She still wants a bed with a fridge in it and a Jetsons-style food machine that will make her anything she wants any time of the day or night. I find it interesting that I can still count her ribs but most of the things she wants involve gratuitous eating night and day. Maybe it’s a cry for help. Maybe she’s secretly starving to death each night in her sleep. Regardless I told her that none of her inventions were likely to make it into a gift bag this year.
So she started brainstorming. Hmmm…. What would she like to have? A DS like Mom. Yes, Mom’s the only one in the family who owns a portable gaming system. This is because Mom is the only one in the family with the willpower to play responsibly. I share it with the kids from time to time, especially on long car rides, and I play myself a couple of hours each week, using the brain training games or just vegging out after a long day in mom mode.
Then I explained to Laylee that if she got a DS, the family rules for gaming would still apply. She would not be allowed to take it to bed with her and play all night. She would only be allowed to play for a specified amount of time and only after chores, homework and piano practicing were done. She was stunned. She decided she didn’t want one anymore.
What she really wanted instead was an MP3 player. She could take it to school and listen to music on the bus and during recess and pretty much have headphones in her ears all the time. Hmmm… Not likely. I told her that if she got an MP3 player, there would still be rules. She could not walk around listening to it when she was in social situations, thus shutting herself off from the world and possible interactions with, you know, people. She could not turn it up past a certain volume and she could only listen to it when she was somewhere that she could safely put her hearing aids away because she couldn’t listen to the player and wear the aids at the same time.
Her face fell. “Jeni takes her iPod to school every day and listens to it.”
I tried to think of a creative way to say, “If Jeni walked off a cliff, would you do it too?” I then reiterated that every family has different rules and ideas about what’s age appropriate. Honestly I don’t want to get her a gadget so expensive and easily destroyed. I can predict the future well enough to know that she’ll end up losing or breaking it within a week and I’ll be mad about it. Why give her a gift that is 95% certain to end in tears and a parental lecture?
She’d also love to have a laptop, a smartphone and her own car. In a way, it’s flattering. She wants to be just like me. But it’s also scary. SHE WANTS TO BE JUST LIKE ME! This is just one more reminder that I need to watch myself because although my kids will inevitably grow to have unique talents, personalities, and interests, they’ll have a lot more of Mom in them than any of us really want to admit.