Thank you, Roald Dahl

“I’m staying in the car until we go to the trampoline place.”

Uh oh.  I had entered into a battle of wills with a four year old.  That never ends well.

The day prior, my friend Lala had taken Liam to one of those places with trampolines, slides, and bouncy houses.  I expected him to return home bursting at the seams with joy, regaling me with every fun detail.

Not so.  He stuck out his lip and said “I didn’t get to have as much fun as I wanted to.”  Lala informed me that by the end of the session, he was whining and complaining about not being allowed to play dodge ball with the older kids or lose money in the claw machine.  She softened the blow by telling me all the kids were out of sorts, but my face still reddened.  She had braved taking four kids to this place on her own, only to be met with puppy dog eyes, pouty lips, and disappointment.  I apologized, thanked her and went to have a talk with Liam.

Liam must had decided that the trampoline house was fun after all, because the next day he insisted we go there.

Remember your childhood, when perhaps the kid down the street had a trampoline, and if you were lucky, you might be invited to break your arm on it?  Our kids have no concept of this.  Thanks to fun moms like me, they are being raised where bouncy houses, children’s museums, kids’ movies, and theme parks are not an unheard of, special treat, but a daily occurrence.  There is some establishment on every corner, with a price that seems reasonable for two hours of not having to think of a way to entertain your child on your own.

But its not just the cool locations to visit.  A couple of nights ago, as I tucked Liam into bed, he made an exhausted omission.

“I think we should stop getting so many toys.”

What kid says that?

I came to the realization that I had gotten into some bad habits.  A thrift store junkie, I can’t resist a bag of $2 action figures.  I justify the purchase by noting how quickly they lose them.  But that’s the thing- they never deal with the loss because Mom always has a fresh supply.  A trip to the dollar store does not end without a new toy in hand, even though I know they will be bored with the possession in a matter of minutes.  Sure, all of these purchases are inexpensive.  But I am setting a precedent that they can always have what they want.  Something needed to change.

As Liam sat in his car seat waiting for me to take him to the trampoline place, I got out of the car and went in the house.  I left the door open so I could hear him, and told him to join me inside when he was ready.  He waited a few minutes and then began sobbing.  I returned to the car and carried him in the house.  I sat him on the couch and told him we needed to have a talk.

“Daddy and Mommy work hard to earn money to buy clothes, and food and our house.  There is only so much money, so sometimes we get to do something fun, and sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we get new toys, and other times we have to be happy with the ones we have.”

“But other people have more stuff than we do.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean they are happier than we are.  We get to have play dates with friends.  We get to go to the park.  We go for bike rides.  All of those things don’t cost us money, and make us really happy.”

Liam is not convinced.  I try to link our conversation to a story we read.

“Remember what happened in ‘The Box?’  One boy had a brand new bike and thought it was so cool.  But only one kid could ride the bike.  Another boy had a box.  The box could be a boat, or a rocket ship, or a plane.  And lots of kids could play in the box.”

Liam tearfully gazes out the window ignoring me.  The wall is up.  New tactic, Mom.

“Have I ever told you the story about the five kids visiting a magic chocolate factory?”

Magic? Chocolate?  Liam wipes his tears and looks at me waiting to hear more.  I  give a brief synopsis of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” before launching into the tale of Veruca Salt.  I knock on his head to illustrate the squirrels determining a good nut from a bad nut.  I throw my best tantrum acting out the part of Veruca.

“But I want a squirrel NOOOOOW!” I screech.  I pound my fists and shake my head for emphasis.  Liam cracks up.  He is laughing so hard that I am tempted to keep going after I finish Veruca’s tale, but I will myself to wait.  I’ve been looking forward to reading it to him since before he is born.

We end by talking about how we don’t want to be brat like Veruca and decide we can spend the afternoon going to the library.  Ok, I did offer a popsicle to sweeten the deal.  I can’t completely change over night.  I have cool mom status to maintain after all.

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