Food, shelter, clothing, love — what more could my boys want? Everything their friends have. But giving in to them won't teach them anything about living with disappointment.
"This is the worst night ever!" shouted 9-year-old Maxon, stomping back up the stairs to his room with his farbisseneh face. "It's so unfair!"
The worst night ever. So unfair. Hmm. What could be so horrid? Is a video game not downloading? Glow-in-the-dark stickers not glowing? Can't find a Lego piece? Did the DVR not record an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball?
Nope. It was far worse. Get this horrible evening: We had a delicious dinner at SoWe and afterwards played in the park across the street. Then the four of us came home, snuggled on the couch with our full bellies and watched an episode of MasterChef Junior. Then it was time for affection-filled bedtime. A few minutes after lights-out, Maxon came downstairs – as he does nightly – wanting to sit with us and read while we watched The Walking Dead. So we said no. Cue drama:
"This is the worst night ever!" And then, "It's not fair!" Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.
Why are my children so chronically disappointed with their amazing lives? They see injustice in every refused request, lack in every bedroom overflowing with Legos and Playmobil and sports equipment. These children want for nothing.
Except for anything their friends have that they don't. I will now refer to all of these children as So-and-so.
So-and-so has an iPhone. So does So-and-so.
So-and-so has an iPad and an iPod Touch.
So-and-so has read The Hunger Games.
So-and-so has seen The Matrix.
So-and-so drinks soda every day with lunch.
You know what So-and-so has for snack? Donuts.
When I hear what So-and-so is doing, my usual response is that I don't care what So-and-so does, and in our house we have different rules.
But So-and-so watches The Walking Dead.
Ok, I'll take that bait. "I don't believe you. Ask So-and-so what happened to Sophia."
Son of a shyster. The kid knew. So-and-so does watch The Walking Dead.
But I digress. The question is, how come my kids act so unappreciative when I am trying my hardest to raise them to be the opposite?
One of my favorite parenting books is The Blessing of the Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. Mogel talks about how everything is a privilege: TV, electronics, toys, games, sweets, oxygen. And we adhere to that philosophy at home. Rules get broken, privileges get taken away. When rules are REALLY broken, all of the privileges go. You are left on your bed with only your wits for entertainment.
Nothing gets the boys complaining about unfairness like losing privileges. And I stand in their bedroom doorways with brow knitted and mouth open because their lives are anything but unfair, so I think they should just pipe down and enjoy their unlimited access to potable water.
But we are not born grateful. Perhaps they haven't lived long enough to understand how hard some people have it in the world. I have had many more years of dealing with inequitable situations. Not I-can't-be-educated-because-I-am-a-girl inequitable, or my-home-was-swallowed-by-floodwaters inequitable, but disappointing situations relative to my generally sweet life. Maybe my boys just need more disappointment practice. And I am happy to give it to them.
So, sing your song of injustice, my fortunate children. You're not getting an iPhone, you're not drinking soda every day at lunch, you can't read The Hunger Games and you definitely can't sit downstairs with us during our rapidly shrinking grownup time to watch The Walking Dead.
So, back upstairs you go. It's grownup time. And I appreciate every second of it.