When I was growing up, we didn’t have very many toys. If we got anything really special, like a bike, we usually had to save up for it or at least pay something towards it. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, in retrospect it was a good thing.
My brothers and I took care of the few things we had because there was never a question that if we lost or destroyed something, it would just be too bad. No one was going to replace it. One time my brother left his bike unlocked outside a store and someone stole it. It was another summer of mowing yards and delivering papers before he got another one. A very hard lesson, but one that wasn’t lost on me. I saved up for and bought my own car at 17 (1977 Mustang – so cool) and I always took good care of it. I knew if I wrecked it or did something irresponsible, then it would be back to walking.
I bring this up because there is a park across the street from our house. Sean and I have been going there at least once a day, sometimes twice, since before he could even walk. It is always astonishing to me to see the things left behind at the playground – expensive scooters, wagons, bicycles, helmets, basketballs, tennis rackets, shoes and coats. When I see these things I always think how if I were ten or eleven, I would miss my bike or scooter. Especially if I had rode it to the park and then walked home. But it’s not hard to imagine that these things were quickly replaced or perhaps that they were not even missed among the excess that is pervasive in this zip code.
A week or so ago, I sat on a bench looking at an expensive red Radio Flyer wagon that had been sitting in the park for several days. I know it’s expensive because Sean got one for his first birthday — not from his cheapskate parents, but from his indulgent Aunt Terrye and Uncle Jack. If it were up to me, he would have had to have saved up for his own wagon. Kidding! Just half of it. I’d chip in something. As I stood up to leave, I looked in the orphaned wagon to see if there might be something to indicate whose it was. I saw a cell phone and a garage door opener. It made perfect sense. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. And I had to laugh.
Until it hit me like a bucket of cold water and one of the unchanging laws of the universe settled uncomfortably into my bones: If I want Sean to take care of his belongings, then I have to take care of my belongings. If I want Sean to be responsible, kind and considerate, then I have to be responsible, kind and considerate. “Do as I say, not as I do” means nothing to a two-year-old. It’s a daunting to think that I have to be the kind of person I want my child to be.
Damn those laws of the universe.