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Where is the Parenting Manual for times like this?!

Ever been at a crowded department store on the weekend, heard a loud CRASH, and then realized it was YOUR child that broke the thing now in tiny pieces all over the floor? 

We were heading out of the Housewares Department after standing in a long line to buy a much-needed griddle when my son spots the tiny snow globe ornaments personalized with names on them.  Hundreds of names listed on this turnstile display (except his – still a little too unique, or his sister’s – still so popular it is always sold-out) but all of sudden he calls out, “Mom, Mom – I found it!”  It was his teacher’s first name and he said he wanted to get it for her as a gift. 

So sweet to be thinking of her – and not himself, so nice to want to get a little something for her out of the blue….what a nice “give.”  The whole ornament (snow globe and base) is about 2 inches tall – I mean it is a TINY little thing…BUT…it sure was a nice thought (and I want to encourage that).  So, I look around for the price.  By the time we figure out that this little speck of a thing cost $5, he is more convinced than ever that THIS is what he needs to get for her. 

I’m thinking $5 could get her a Starbucks gift card that she’d probably enjoy a whole lot more.  Or the $5 could be added on to a Barnes and Noble gift certificate that she could really use.  But this is what HE wants to do…and I don’t want to pooh pooh his thoughtfulness.  But now the line is REALLY long, and to wait in a long line for this cheesy little thing that doesn’t seem worth even $2  — well, it’s a tough call. 

But off to the back of the line we go.  He is very excited about it, but I continue to feel torn.  By the time we get to the front of the line, I am still second-guessing my decision (we could be getting in the car by now).  Then, CRASH!  He was being a little careless and he drops it.  The snow globe breaks into a million little pieces, sending shattered glass and liquid everywhere (quite amazing so much came out of something so small).  I let out an involuntary gasp (a little louder than I realize) and between that and the crash, everyone at the counters turns around and stares at us. 

My son looks shocked and I see a wave of emotions cross his face.  He knows he messed up, but his way to fix it is to run back over to the display to see if there is another one.  As I bend down to pick up some of the bigger pieces, a sales lady comes over with paper towels to help me.  Apparently noticing that I’m none too happy about the whole thing, she tells me not to worry, she’ll put it down as “damaged.” 

He’s back – with relief all over his face, “Look, Mom!  They had one more left with her name on it!  We can still get it.”  If I was torn before, I am completely conflicted now.  It was one of those moments I wished someone would just freeze-frame the scene and tell me what to do.  

I don’t know why I am so mad – but I am.  Am I frustrated at his carelessness, which seems to be happening more and more lately?  Am I upset because there doesn’t seem to be any responsibility taken at breaking it?  Do most kids just think, oh no big deal, I’ll just get another one???!  That everything is replaceable – that money comes from an endless supply?  That type of thinking is one example of why our economy is so messed up today.  Then again, he is only 7.  Am I punishing him for the sins of grown-ups (ones who really should know better)? 

Before all this happened in our economy recently, I never would have thought twice about buying the stupid little ornament.  You and I know it’s not the cost of it per ce.  It is what it represents (spending $5 here and $5 there – on silly little things).  I am trying to be more aware, more conscious in my spending.  So for me, this whole scene has a much bigger meaning.  But is that entirely fair to him?

I am thinking the right thing to do is to pay for BOTH snow globes (the one he broke and the one we are taking) but to spend $10 on this little thing is just too much for me to bear!  If I was hard-core, I would make him pay for both of them – but he doesn’t have that kind of money in his piggy bank (which makes me feel like maybe we shouldn’t have been in line in the first place!)

So I tell him he will need to pay for one of them.  Since we haven’t worked out an allowance system yet, I tell him he can earn the money by doing jobs for me around the house, or with some of his Tooth Fairy money.  He is agreeable to that, and the look on his face when he got home and proudly showed his Dad what he was going to give his teacher was priceless.  I guess you could say it all worked out.

But this Zen Mama Wannabe still thinks about what happened in the store and how bothered I was over it. What was the “right” way to handle it? (I like to be prepared if – God forbid – it should happen again.  After all, we still have a lot of growing up years in front of us.)  Was I overreacting – just having one of those hormonal days?  Was there an opportunity there for one of those teachable moments – and did I blow it?   I wanted to make sure he got the lesson – but now I wonder if really the lesson there was for me??

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One Response to “Where is the Parenting Manual for times like this?!”

  1. callieandbatido Says:
    November 15th, 2008 at 7:27 am

    For what it’s worth, I think you handled it great. As parents, I think we are always looking for the life lessons we need to teach our children. After all, we are so very wise. 🙂 But sometimes it is as simple as a mistake. He dropped it by accident and it doesn’t sound like he was throwing it around or otherwise being careless. It just slipped. He will work off the cost of the globe so he understands even when we make mistakes, we have to take responsibility. But most importantly, he left feeling proud of himself and excited about his gift.

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