I made a tactical parenting error.
Ok, maybe not a critical or crucial one, but an error just the same.
I let my 6-year-old son choose 2 presents we had to get for his friends. One was for a class exchange and the other was a birthday gift.
For the class exchange, our budget was $7, which is pretty tight. He ended up choosing a super cute, I mean way cool, hat and mitts set. It fit the budget, was practical and I was proud of him.
I was volunteering in class the day of the exchange and I had an uneasy feeling going in. I’d heard some of the moms talking in the schoolyard and one of them had mentioned a sale at Toys r Us and the word Beyblade.
Now for my son, Beyblades are the toy for the boys in his peer group. How spinning tops came back into style is beyond me, but I digress.
I started to feel sick.
And then I got to class. When the exchange happened, I saw kids unwrapping Lego sets and craft kits and yes, the prized Beyblades and realized I was the only one who’d stuck to budget and we were going to have a problem. I watched the child unwrap the gift from my son, and saw his face fall. As his classmates circled around playing with their toys and squealing with excitement, he was stuck with the stinky old hat and mitts. He didn’t even finish unwrapping them, he just quietly put on a brave face and wrapped them back up.
I would never wish that on any child, especially not one I liked. I quickly emailed his mom and told her what had happened and said he’d get another present the next day.
She, being an awesome mom, hoped her son hadn’t been rude or ungrateful and told me not to.
I immediately responded saying that of course he hadn’t been. But I felt that I’d dropped the ball or missed some parenting cue or unspoken playground rule – thou shalt not give the crappy gift no matter how wonderful thee thought it t’was.
So I quickly rushed out and got a Beyblade and some Silly Putty and the next day my son proudly offered it over and the kid was beyond elated. And, ok, I maybe got some kind of school yard mommy points back.
Family therapist Alyson Schafer has an amazing responsibility chart in her book “Breaking the Good Mom Myth”. Broken down by age, it tells you what a child can and aught to be responsible for. Like setting the table, taking out the garbage and cleaning toilets.
Present buying isn’t in there, btw.
And this one rides a fine line between parental vanity and maintaining childhood happiness. Because opening presents should be a joy. And yes, our children are all very blessed and have plenty, but do you remember your childhood? Think back. You remember every crappy gift you were given and don’t pretend you don’t. It’s Ralphie in the bunny suit. But at least that was funny…
The other present by the way? For one of his girlfriend’s birthdays it was a really cool book of do-at-home science experiments from Scholastic Kids called Hockey Science and, you guessed it, a Beyblade. I warned her mom beforehand.
Needless to say, I’m doing the present buying from now on…