I like to, as much as I can, let my kids choose for themselves. I feel like my job as a parent is to provide a boundary for those choices, a predetermined set of things that they can pick from to give them the sense, and hopefully eventually the discipline, of choosing their own life and having a say in their own destiny.
Now, if my kids were to read this, I think they would call bullshit on this. But since only two of the three know how to read, two don’t know my password (I think), and I don’t allow them to cuss, I don’t think they’re going to have that opportunity. I’m sure they experience my parenting as a relentless attempt to do the exact opposite of what I just so nobly described because I am constantly and persistently involved in their lives, but that is my job as a parent isn’t it? And, sometimes I just get bored and I like to mess with them. Still, overall, I think it’s for their betterment.
My kids need boundaries as much as I do. I mean, if I didn’t have any boundaries, I would be a drunk, 300lb, clown who makes balloon animals. Yes, I know that is weird, but I am simply trying to make the point that I would be a mess without boundaries. As it is, I am proud to announce I am not 300lbs so I do have some restraint. My children, on the other hand, without restraint would be booger eating, feet stomping, screaming, dirty, little Wal-Mart bastards. I must draw the line somewhere so I refuse to let them eat their boogers. Pick all you like but the minute it goes into your mouth, beware because my vomit is close behind.
I say all of this simply as a preface to say that I allowed my youngest child to pick out a present for his Mother with as little coaching as possible from me. I wanted to see what was actually in his little heart. What would he pick out, looking through his five year old eyes and without interference, for his Mom? I took him to Target to find out.
We walked in the store and immediately he went for the dollar section. Now I’m not against a bargain basement gift for my wife, but she is, so I quickly steered him away from the cheap lotion and scrubby sponges. We walked towards the clothing section and he started to suggest a few clothing items that Mom might like: a sexy nighty (I hope he suggested that item because it was pretty, not because he was unknowingly awake), a SpongeBob tee-shirt, and bright pink shorts. Referring to my comments above, I started to limit his choices.
Naturally we moved over to the toy section. “Would Mom like this?”, he asked, holding up a Barbie doll. I am sure that one of the reasons I married my wife was because I intuited that she had never ever in her life liked Barbie. “I don’t think Mom likes dolls anymore”, was my gentle reply hoping I didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for this present adventure. We walked down another isle when he stopped dead in his tracks. He had found it and he knew it.
“Her is going to love this!”.
I looked up and there it was. The perfect amalgamation of my desire to provide a set of choices and his five year old mind: A sock monkey. Yes, a sock monkey. I knew the moment he said it that this was the gift that would delight both the giver and the receiver. He would be overjoyed to present this to his Mom, and she would be genuinely surprised and know the joy of receiving a gift that was given with the whole of his heart. It was perfect.
We purchased the sock monkey and promptly went home to wrap it. Now, at five years old, he understands the idea that giving someone a gift is supposed to be a surprise. Feeling like he fully grasped that idea and wanting to add extra tension to the element of surprise, right before she opened her gift he blurted out, “It’s not a sock monkey, Mom!”. I am sure in his young mind he thought such a statement would only add to the tension of the moment and the eventual surprise. It didn’t add to the surprise of course, but it did add something to the moment. It added the hopes of a five year old that he would truly and joyfully surprise his Mom.
She was surprised. She loved the sock monkey and it has taken up a permanent position on the dresser in our bedroom. It sits there staring blankly up at the ceiling fan as a daily reminder that our children love us with a childlike love, as they should. Our sock monkey reminds us that although our youngest is five years old now, he is still young and small. The knuckles on his hands are still indented like all young children’s hands are.
As our children grow and become better at choosing for themselves and others, there are two things that will endure in our house; the sock monkey and his misuse of pronouns. The phrase, “Her is going to love this”, has also taken up a permanent residence, but in our family lexicon instead of the dresser. We all say this phrase now when we know someone is really going to like something, and it all started with Sawyer because him loved with his whole heart.