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.
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?