Setting Of A Mind

In the months leading up to my son’s ninth birthday, he chatted incessantly about the iPod Touch he wanted to buy.  I looked it up on the internet and discovered this gadget started at over $200. Yikes.  I delicately explained to him that he is not heir to a throne and our family isn’t wealthy, so if he saved birthday money and Christmas money and allowance, he might have enough to buy one – in December.

I also asked more questions – mainly, “Why?”

He rattled off names of several kids I have never met who brought iPod Touch devices to summer camp.  Great, I thought, here we go again with the explanation of why we aren’t racing the Joneses to bankruptcy.  I explained that getting something because others had it wasn’t a good enough reason.  He revealed that “even a first grader” had one.

Oh, well that changes everything.

No, not really.  Now the judgments of improper parenting swirled around in my head.  Improper, of course, because it wasn’t my way…and, I’ve deluded myself into thinking I know what I’m doing.

He backed off the iPod Touch and got excited about a Ninetendo DSi.  I did research to compare the two so he could make an informed decision.  Unexpectedly, he veered in another direction:  he wanted a touch screen digital camera that also took videos.

More research.  Together, we narrowed the list to four, based on his budget.  I liked the one that took an average of 300 pictures per battery charge. He liked the 3.5” touch screen on another.  I pointed out other features on each camera.  He still liked the 3.5” touch screen.  I wanted him to consider the other options with an open mind.  He had his mind made up – he wanted that one camera.

For weeks, he told everyone that would listen that he would buy a digital camera with his birthday money.  My mom didn’t understand why a camera.

“Are you sure he’ll take care of it?” she asked me.

I just shrugged my shoulders.  “He will learn.”

I listened as she told him she thought he would like the Nintendo DSi more.  She tried to sway the rooted, immoveable object that is my son by talking about the video games he could play on a DSi.

This exchange reminded me of a mish-mash of conversations that molded me throughout my childhood.  Sometimes, the suggestions were so subtle that they seeped into brain as if they were my own thoughts.  Other times, they were more blatant and incited self-doubt, leaving me unsure of what I really wanted.

From a young age, my parents indoctrinated me that college was my path – all other roads were closed.  Graphic design was a difficult profession.  Teaching didn’t pay enough money.  What about medicine?  My will was pliable.  I went to college because it was easier than resisting.  However, I did not go into a lucrative field.  I chose Psychology…probably the one field with less pay than teachers 🙂

I understand where these well-intentioned ideas came from. They were offered in loving attempts to avoid painful mistakes made in their own lives.  Now, I recognize that I am a person tied to practicality; dreams are a frivolity, to be fancied but not fully pursued.  I’ve still made mistakes…just different ones.  I’ve earned a living all right, but at the expense of my dreams.  It’s funny how these things seem so clear looking over my shoulder.

Despite her efforts, my son remained undeterred – he bought the camera.  In the days since his birthday, he has been honing his photography skills.  He has hardly put the camera down.  He’s framing shots and experimenting with scene settings.  He’s practicing videotaping narratives and playing with photo effects.  He’s being creative.

Food for Creativity

I admire my son’s ability to drown out the noise and stick with what he knew would make him happy.  If he can continue to look inward and resist the constant pull of the outside world, I think my boy will be just fine.

Now, if he could just take out the trash without negotiating…

I can’t have it both ways, can I?

What about you – have you reflected on your own life and gained understanding of who you are today? 


34 thoughts on “Setting Of A Mind

  1. crumbl August 23, 2011 / 6:51 AM


    Another thought provoking post, JT.

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:11 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your comment, Crumbl. I hope your thought wasn’t, “Geez, there’s three minutes I’ll never get back!”

      Only kidding. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  2. Carl D'Agostino August 23, 2011 / 7:52 AM

    The tech industry has been very successful in convincing teens and even younger that they absolutely need this stuff. Miami is a poor city comparatively. One measure of that is that maybe 75% of school kids qualify for free or reduced lunch and yet a large per cent carry these things all the time. They monopolize study time. In addition, I lament that kids these days don’t know how to make things with their hands anymore. Sawing wood, building model airplanes, pottery, painting and drawing and other projects were a key part of my childhood. I still enjoy artsy crafty stuff at 62. All these kids do today is press buttons. I still don’t own a cell phone and frequently use archaic items such as a pen, stationary, envelopes and an items known as a stamp.

    • Maimoona Rahman August 23, 2011 / 11:12 AM

      The transition from using stamps, pens and stationary to using an all-purpose computer has been harder for people born in the 90s. One day you are caned for bad handwriting and the next day you are in university studying computer foundation because you cannot touch type.

      I can easily relate to your son, J. I am always craving the latest and saving up to buy things I want, not need. I often convince myself very easily that I need these things for this and that. Your son is still very young to differentiate between want and need. As an adult, I myself can’t control my desires.

      • Maimoona Rahman August 23, 2011 / 11:13 AM

        At least your son settled on something practical and useful.

        • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:54 PM

          True enough, Maimoona. It seems to be a good quality one, so I hope it will last. So far, he is taking good care of it.

      • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:53 PM

        It would be tough to master handwriting and typing. When I was in high school (not gonna say when that was because it was a loooong time ago), we didn’t work on computers at all, but I took a typing class as an elective course. I didn’t really have to do much with computers until my last year of college. Times change fast.

        I see lots of things I think I would like, but somehow, it just doesn’t make the priority list of purchases (like a Wii Fit or iPad 2.) Wants and needs are tricky. We can easily convince ourselves that a want is truly a need. (Been there, done that – wtih clothing especially.)

        Thanks for your comment, Maimoona!

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:15 PM

      You’re right, Carl. They have some good marketing going on for sure. I’d love to have a Wii, X Box, iPad, etc. but we can’t afford it. Or, rather, we’re not willing to go into debt to have it.

      Luckily, my dad is handy (and an electrician) so he builds stuff with the kids. My older son was just thrilled when they “made” a functioning switch-operated light bulb with some spare parts he had in the garage. Maybe a grass roots creativity movement will sweep the nation?

      I didn’t think so either…unless it’s covered in blinking lights and sound effects.

  3. Tori Nelson August 23, 2011 / 9:26 AM

    Oh Lawd! First graders carry iPhones now? I’m in so much trouble. I’m going to pray my toddler just happens to like playing with boxes and spatulas until he’s grown!

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:17 PM

      Tori, I say let him pretend that stuff is electronic. My older son started bugging me for a cell phone when he was in third grade. I said no, and told him not to bring it up again until he was at least twelve.

      Good luck to us, right?

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:19 PM

      Hey, for this one thing we do right, I think we do three others “wrong”, but we do the best we can. We’ve got our fingers crossed he turns out okay in the end. I’ll let you know in ten years 🙂

      Thanks for reading, Connor!

      • Connor @ August 24, 2011 / 2:38 PM

        I think as long as you’re trying , you’re ahead of the game. Plus you’re caught in a trap by the simple fact that the traits you have to instill in kids to make them good adults are exactly the ones that make them obnoxious children. Outgoing, curious, educated, self-confident people who stick by what they believe and can take what the world throws at them start out as ignorant headstrong little people-pupae who challenge everything. All I can say is, looking back, they’ll probably appreciate the three screw ups as much as each success.

        For example, the many alternately damp and boring hours handing my dad various wrenches when I was younger are the only reason I was able to prevent my apartment from becoming a swimming pool this morning.

        • jannatwrites August 24, 2011 / 10:56 PM

          I hope they do look back and think they turned out okay, Connor.

          I’m glad your dad helped you learn your way around the wrench. Good skills for keeping dry, that’s for sure! I bet at the time you weren’t thrilled with helping…

  4. SuziCate August 23, 2011 / 9:53 AM

    Technology starts young doesn’t it? I saw a kid all of six with an iphone at the airport. Wonder what kind of toy he’ll want by the time he’s a teenager…oh yeah, a converible sports car! Kudos to your son for knowing what he wants and sticking to his interests…who knows he might just be a great photographer in the making!

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:40 PM

      Well, SuziCate, it seems like everything starts younger…but maybe it’s because I’m getting older! ‘Teenager’ and ‘sports car’ shouldn’t be in the same sentence, in my opinion. Scary!

      I’m curious to see how his photography skills progress. Next time we do a hike he will be able to take his own pictures.

      • crumbl August 24, 2011 / 3:22 AM

        Hey, I had a) my driver’s licence the day I turned 16 and b) a TR6 convertible the very next day (that’s a sports car, JT … also a babe magnet … now THAT’s something to worry about). Admittedly, I had already moved out on my own and paid for the car myself. The car cost me $1,900, my first year’s tuition at university (the same year) cost me less than $700 … now, you’re lucky to find a course for under $700, much less a year’s tuition. Try to find a new car for $1,900. 🙂

        • jannatwrites August 24, 2011 / 10:58 PM

          I’m thinking I’ll get the kids an ’87 Cavalier. There’s nothing sporty about that…and I know they won’t be able to race it 🙂

          Your numbers go to show how much times have changed (and how much more expensive it is.)

          Thanks for putting ‘babe magnet’ concerns on my radar, Crumbl.

  5. Debbie August 23, 2011 / 10:26 AM

    Good for you, Janna — presenting your son with the facts, then supporting him while he follows his dream! If he’s like most kids, he’ll flit from this dream to tens of others before he zeroes in on one, but your practicality is setting a good structure for his decision-making. And I hope he LOVES photography — whether for a living or a hobby, it’s a good one!

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 7:44 PM

      Thanks, Debbie!

      I expect him to explore possible dreams during childhood. I’d rather him do that than be tied to one thing without seeing what else he might be good at. He wants to do Cub Scouts this year, too…so he might find something else he’s interested in.

      I hope the camera/photography isn’t a fleeting thing. I would like to see him continue to learn about the art 🙂

  6. chlost August 23, 2011 / 2:48 PM

    It is such a good idea to have let him make the decision of how to spend his birthday money. The research he (and you) did on his purchase is exactly the type of skill he will need to be a responsible man. No matter what the technology in the world, or the wishes, or the decisions he will make, this process is invaluable.

    Happy Birthday to him!

    And to you! I always believe moms should get a little something for the kids’ birthdays, too. At least mom remembers the day. 🙂

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 8:00 PM

      I can’t tell you how hard it is to not direct how he spends the money – especially when I don’t agree with his choice 🙂

      I think I drove him nuts with the comparisons. First we compared different brands, then we had to compare prices. (We found prices that varied by as much as eighty dollars. That’s a lot of money!) I do hope he goes through this exercise when he gets older, then I’ll feel like I got at least one thing right.

      My birthday present was absorbing his joy over the day. He loves birthdays. Thanks for reading and sharing your commennt, Chlost.

  7. pattisj August 23, 2011 / 3:51 PM

    I’m glad he’s enjoying his camera. That’s a skill that will last a lifetime.

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 8:02 PM

      I sure hope so, Patti. I always enjoyed taking pictures, too. When I was a child, they didn’t have digital cameras, so I had to develop the film before I found out that no one’s head made it into the shot 🙂

  8. nrhatch August 23, 2011 / 3:54 PM

    Have I told you today that you’re my favorite?

    This post rocks in so many ways that it’s almost competing with the 5.9 point earthquake that hit VA ~ DC ~ NYC earlier today.

    You encouraged him to consider options.
    You encouraged him to evaluate wants and needs and features.
    You allowed him to make up HIS own mind and listen to HIS inner voice.

    And photography is a GREAT TOOL for reminding us to stay focused on the moment. Instead of getting lost in apps or distracted by video games, cameras require us to tune in to the view finder to get the best shot.

    Have I told you, you rock?!

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 8:12 PM

      Are you trying to make my ego pop, Nancy 😉 It’s funny, because my boys got me a necklace for Mother’s Day in 2010 with “You Rock!” engraved on the heart-shaped charm.

      Of course my ego will stay slim, because I may have this area under control, but I fail in other areas. (More patience would help immensely.) I like your take on the benefits of photography. Here’s hoping he continues to enjoy it as much as he does now.

      Thanks for reading ahd sharing your opinion. I’m glad you stopped by.

  9. Miss Rosemary August 23, 2011 / 4:22 PM

    Good for him! A camera is MUCh cooler than an iPod touch anyway. My ten year old sister’s friend has a Droid, which I do not undrestand. IIIII don’t even need a Droid with my hectic internship … Stand your ground, you’re being a good parent. That camera will probably be the best present he’s ever gotten 🙂

    • jannatwrites August 23, 2011 / 8:20 PM

      I’m glad you said that, Miss Rosemary, because I couldn’t figure out why he would want an iPod Touch. I don’t get it, but I figured it’s just ’cause I’m old 😉

      So many kids have cell phones/smart phones. I don’t want to go that route because I don’t see how it is a safety tool (the reason I’ve heard most often for getting a child a phone). I’d rather him check in with me in person than call and tell me where he’s at. I would have no way of knowing if he is where he said so the phone just gives a false sense of security.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Miss Rosemary!

  10. cuhome August 28, 2011 / 4:26 PM

    Yes, of course I’ve looked at my life, but let’s not talk about that right now 🙂

    Re: your son. Just think ~~ he’s only 9 ! In 4 years he’ll be 13, a teenager!! I wish you well. I really, really do. And in reading your blog, I’ve realized just how happy I am that my children are past that, and I get to watch from afar as they raise their own little sweeties !

    PS ~ It sounds like you’re doing a terrific job, Mom. 🙂

    • jannatwrites August 28, 2011 / 5:58 PM

      Hehehe…Okay, we won’t talk about my life, either – deal?

      I can’t think about the teen years – I get crazy anxiety. My parents enjoy being grandparents, too. They like the fact they can spoil them rotten and then send them home so they can rest. Sounds like a good deal to me.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Cuhome. At the end of the day, I can see how many mistakes we’ve made, but I hope we’ve done enough “right” to counteract that. Time will tell…

  11. SAS Fiction Girl September 14, 2011 / 11:04 AM

    I remember reading the Girl Scout Guide instructions to make a pinhole camera and being excited to think I could actually do such a thing! Never did it, though.

    • jannatwrites September 14, 2011 / 6:19 PM

      We made a shoebox camera in school. It didn’t work very well 😦

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