Our son gets an allowance. He typically wants the first thing he sees in the toy section… or maybe even the end-cap before the toy section. Like many of us, hes a “stuff” centered kid. He’s an amazing, good-hearted boy, but he likes toys.
When he saw the Chase stuffed animal, he fell apart (in a happy, good way). He has allowance money so we confirmed that he wanted it and he happily exclaimed, “YES!”.
As we continued shopping, he hugged the animal, told it he loved him, and was pretty much as happy as he could be.
But when we reached the checkout isle, he spotted a Pokemon key-chain. First you need to understand that he has never seen Pokemon. Not the show, not the movie, not even the commercials. His only reference to Pokemon is that his friends at school (most of whom are older) like it.
Any parent knows, this now means he likes it too. Even though he has never watched an episode, touched a toy, or has any reference to it whatsoever. But that doesn’t matter in the eyes of peer pressure… even at just over 5 years old. “I want that!“, he shouted exuberantly.
I clarified he was talking about the key chain and then parenting kicked in. (albeit newbish, frustrated parenting). I thought, ‘this will be quick’ and asked the question. “Well, which would you rather have, the animal you have been hugging for the past 30 minutes or this keychain?” Before I could even finish, he blurted the answer… “POKEMON KEYCHAIN!!!!!”.
I screamed as loud as my internal brain could scream to itself without letting any actual words out, … “YOU DON’T HAVE ANY KEYS!!!”
This could have gone down a few different ways. It’s his allowance and we generally try and let him decide how its spent. He tithes a little, but we also let him make some mistakes as well to try and get those lessons in him about how he spends his money.
In this case, I just couldn’t do it. Something he loved and adored versus something he didn’t even understand on multiple levels. He has no keys, there is no way to really ‘play’ with a keychain, and he doesn’t know the first thing about Pokemon.
So I had to be the bad guy. (for about 3 minutes). The simple fact is, I know better than he does. I’m not smart or better or special. I just have more experience than he does. And I know that keychain would have been buried in a toybox never to be seen again after about 10 minutes of looking at it. And the next time we went to the store he would have wanted the Chase stuffed animal with no allowance available to buy it.
So I said no. I said he couldn’t use his own money to buy something. I think the picture above shows how he handled the event. Sad at first, but he has fed his stuffed animal, let him do his home work, watched movies, slept with it, and pretty much hasn’t done anything without Chase by his side.
I knew something he didn’t. I knew how much more happiness would come from a “no, I’m not gonna let you do that”. He experienced 3 minutes of sadness while we stared at that dangling, shiny key chain during checkout. But once the car was packed in the parking lot, he had already forgotten about it. Days later, he loves every life moment with Chase glued to his hip.
It’s easy to put myself in dad-mode and bask in how happy my son is with some swift, logical parenting… but like in most parables, I’m not the parent in this story. I’m the boy who wants things that aren’t good for me, wastes stuff, covets, and gets sad when things don’t go my way. MY way. God… He is the one who knows whats best. He is the one who lovingly withholds, carefully plans, and masterfully executes things I may never understand.
God’s “no” is so much more loving than any man’s “yes”. Not only loving, but good for us. We often have the freedom to make our own mistakes, and we can usually learn a good lesson when we do. But praise God for the “no” answer. That wonderful experience where He steps in and decides that against our better judgement, He isn’t going to let us mess that up.
Thank you, God… for all those times you save me from myself. And please forgive my response, which often isn’t eternally focused.