One of the problems of being an older parent of an only child — a child that is especially delightful and charming and works the strings of my heart like an angel strumming a harp — is not caving in and spoiling him rotten. It takes a lot of restraint. It takes a lot of that self-control stuff that I’m trying to teach him.
Antique Daddy and I believe that over-indulging the desires of Sean’s heart would be to abuse him. We believe that it is good for Sean to not have everything he wants, to long for something a little bit, to have to save up for something. I believe these things in theory. In practice, I could use some practice.
Grandparents do not believe this in theory or practice.
* * * * *
In the past year or so, every time we have gone to Wal-Mart, Sean asks if we can stop and look at the little battery operated cars – Barbie cars, Lightning McQueen cars, Jeeps, John Deere tractors. He stands in front of the wall of tiny vehicles and gazes upon their magnificence. His eyes sparkle with desire. I can see that he is imagining himself tooling around the neighborhood in the little red Lightning McQueen car waving to everyone he sees.
“Mom, can we get one of those little cars?” he asks.
“Well Sean, they’re really expensive. They cost about $300. That’s a lot of money,” I tell him.
“Please Mom, I really want one,” he pleads.
“I know you do. That would be a really big present. I’d have to talk to Daddy about that.”
“Maybe?” he asks, hopefully.
“Maybe someday,” I tell him. “We can’t buy everything we want.”
He doesn’t really understand that.
* * * * *
Recently I got a Tuesday Morning ad in the mail and I noticed that they had a little red Dale Earnhardt battery-powered car for $99. I was sorely tempted to run down to Tuesday Morning and get Sean one because a) it was only $99 and b) I was imagining how his eyes would light up when he saw it. And I love it when I make his eyes light up, it jump starts my soul.
But I didn’t.
What stopped me was a) I would have to explain to Antique Daddy that I had breached our agreement for $99, b) the little red car would have to occupy space in our garage that we do not have and c) that whole not over-indulging my child theory I’m supposed to be practicing.
* * * * *
Just before Mother’s Day the phone rang and it was Papa George – Papa George the grandfather who is immune from the rules governing the over-indulgence of children.
“Tell Sean I gotta surprise for him,” Papa George said in his Alabama drawl.
“Oh George,” I sighed. “What have you done?”
Papa George played the Grandpa card, confessed to buying the car, offered no apologies and hung up.
So we went to Tuna to celebrate Mother’s Day, and there it was in the middle of the living room — the little red car of Sean’s dreams. It was half way hidden under a blanket. Like Houdini, Sean pulled the blanket away, clutched his heart and gasped in disbelief.
“I can’t believe my eyes!” he screamed. “I have wanted one of these my entire life!”
Now, even if the story were to end here, y’all would probably be thinking, “That Papa George! What a fantastic grandpa!” And you would be right, but you have no idea.
Papa George is 81-years-old and his spine is crumbling. He has a hard time standing for 10 minutes at a time without white hot pain. It’s hard for him to get around. Yet he got up at 6am, drove to Tuesday Morning and stood in line for two hours to get Sean the little red car. Two hours.
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Papa George doesn’t know how to love small.
With no prodding from his parents, Sean jumped into the recliner with Papa George and gave him a big hug and a kiss and told him how much he liked the car.
I don’t know if that eased Papa George’s back pain any, but I’m sure it was good medicine for his heart. It was for mine.
I’m just hoping a boy can be a little bit spoiled and not be rotten.