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  • The Little Red Car

    May 20, 2008

    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.

    Photos Temporarily Unavailable

    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.

    73 Comments »

    1. Shanna says:

      Oh my, how sweet! My son (only 2!!) just got his first motorized vehicle. Again, this was the purchase of a very eager grandpa. Granted it was used from a garage sale but still, he is only 2! Both my husband and I longed for a PowerWheels car as kids so we didn’t object too much, plus we had been planning to get him one next year, but it is just a little much right now. But I gotta tell ya, the kid is in heaven. Have fun!!

      May 20th, 2008 at 12:38 am

    2. Sarah T says:

      Of course he can! Be spoiled and not rotten that is.
      And just think – Papa George gets to be the hero and your still a good parent!! 🙂

      May 20th, 2008 at 12:42 am

    3. Renna says:

      Ahh, that is an incredibly sweet story. 🙂

      I know people who were raised as only children and spoiled by having much, as well as children (not all only’s, either) of people my dh and I know that are spoiled, and yet none of them rotten. Yes, it is a risk to spoil without creating brats, but I know it can be done. I’ve witnessed it many times. We all know it’s a grandparent’s God given right to spoil their grandchildren, though, and Papa George sounds like a real sweetheart whose heart has been stolen by a certain little boy. 😉

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:08 am

    4. Michelle says:

      Oh man, that totally makes me cry! Look how thrilled he is! And he’ll never forget it. Oh the love.

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:10 am

    5. Krista says:

      That is seriously precious. I hope Papa George gets to live quite awhile longer (in not more pain) and enjoy his precious grandson!

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:18 am

    6. Betty G. says:

      What great memories Sean will have of Papa George forever! This is priceless. Let Papa George indulge him a little. I’m sure he won’t go overboard …. maybe…. 🙂

      Betty in Oklahoma

      May 20th, 2008 at 2:10 am

    7. TransitionGirl says:

      Such a loving grandpa. Yes, its possible to be spoilt but not rotten. My parents spoilt me sometimes, disciplined me others and my dad still indulges me. lol. but i don’t think i turned out rotten (i hope. lol)

      May 20th, 2008 at 2:17 am

    8. chickadee says:

      oh that post made me cry. everything makes me cry right now.

      May 20th, 2008 at 2:21 am

    9. jen elslager says:

      That was a fun read! Yay Papa George!!!

      May 20th, 2008 at 3:39 am

    10. Heidi says:

      Oh! Crying…yet again.

      May 20th, 2008 at 5:48 am

    11. Sue says:

      What a great post. You know, I don’t think that buying things for children is spoiling them. Sean is clearly not spoilt, when you look at his reaction. He loves the car, but he loves Papa George more. He gave him a hug and a kiss before he got in the car. And he’s thrilled with it.

      A spoilt child is not thankful, does not give hugs or kisses, except in a manipulative way to get what he wants, and when he does get what he asked for, it’s not enough.

      Spoiled children, in my (admittedly limited) experience are not those whose wishes are indulged, but those who are given things INSTEAD of love and cuddles. Grandparents are meant to buy things for children, and love them unconditionally and obviously, and give them back to parents when any kind of discipline is required. It’s their role. I am looking forward to it one day 🙂

      May 20th, 2008 at 5:59 am

    12. Anne says:

      I always say spoiled is not defined by having a lot of things. Spoiled is when you don’t appreciate what you have 🙂

      May 20th, 2008 at 7:44 am

    13. Amy Nathan says:

      I like the differentiation of being spoiled and not rotten. I think that might describe my kids — who have much but are appreciative and understanding of the value – and sometimes the effort that goes into getting something you want. Remember, they are teenagers, so not being the rotten part is really big!!

      May 20th, 2008 at 7:48 am

    14. heidi says:

      If I had a nickel for every time a grandparent bought the kids something that mommy and daddy wouldn’t buy…

      And yes, Sean can be spoiled without being rotten. You can give him all the THINGS in the world (or not)and he’ll be a great kid if you give him values and standards and a Christian example, which you are.

      I am so happy for Sean and his new car. I don’t even know the kid, and I’m excited.

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:00 am

    15. Sally says:

      Yes, grandparents are exempt from the rule of not spoiling children. And they use that opportunity as often as they can!!!!
      My girls are teenagers now, and my husband and I have spent years hearing what “bad” parents we are because we do not run out and buy them everything they think they want, even though “EVERYONE else has it.” We will leave that up to the grandparents………
      Love the story (and pictures) of Sean and Papa George!!
      What love that is for him to have stood in line for 2 hours to get that car for Sean, despite all the pain it must have caused him!!! What a sweet and loving gesture!!!

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:30 am

    16. Donna W says:

      Grandparents’ spoiling no only doesn’t hurt a child, it’s required!

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    17. Donna W says:

      “not only”

      Sorry

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    18. Erin says:

      How sweet. You’re such a great writer, you’re always bringing tears to my eyes. Loved this one and the one about school being cancelled for snuggling.

      May 20th, 2008 at 9:02 am

    19. Margie says:

      From a granma, yes it is our right to spoil the grandkids every chance we get. Our granddaughter has two motorized cars.

      May 20th, 2008 at 9:04 am

    20. aggiema says:

      That is so sweet. Grandparent spoiling is totally different from parent spoiling and can be tolerated to a much higher degree. We have always had a rule that the grandparents can spoil as much as they want but we get to decide if the toy is a “go home toy” or “stay at grandparents toy”! For example…baby dolls can be a “go home toy” but drums are definitely a “stay at grandparents toy”

      May 20th, 2008 at 9:16 am

    21. Shalee says:

      Presents from grandparents don’t count. At least that’s what the Kids’ grandparents say. Since they’re buying, I’m okay with letting the kids have something that their hearts wanted buy our parenting theories couldn’t afford.

      I think Sean will be just fine. I can’t see a trace of rotten in him. How do I know? Because he said thanks with a grateful heart all on his own. You and AD taught him that; y’all are doing a great job.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    22. Jenni says:

      Why do I keep coming here? I cry everytime I come here!

      Oh yeah…that’s why.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:11 am

    23. mama says:

      I complain about my in laws spoiling my baby alot. I know they spoil my daughter because they’re trying to love her. She’s not even 2 yet and they try to give her everything she wants and plenty she didn’t even know she wanted.

      You’ve given me a different persepective with your incredibly sweet story…here’s another mama hoping that spoiling doesn’t have to = rotten. Sometimes maybe I’m just jealous that they can give her so many things that we cannot because we don’t have the money yet. Who knows, but I’m going to try to give them a break and let them love our girl.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    24. Jon D (Graco) says:

      I think they can be spoiled and not rotten. My wife disagrees. I told her, he’s not rotten, he just doesn’t smell too good.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:21 am

    25. Marianne says:

      This reminds me of the Bible story of the woman who annointed Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume. You won’t always have Papa George with you! What a beautiful love story.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:23 am

    26. Sophie says:

      I’m jealous! I want a Papa George too!
      That’s a beautiful story.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:25 am

    27. Joanna says:

      (Wipes eyes) Oh that is so touching. The pictures too (grabs kleenex) and when he said he wanted one his whole life well that just did me in. (Makes some nasty noise while blowing nose)

      Gotta love Papa George! I heard a parent of an only child said it’s all about balance – they gave her everything she wanted but just made sure to beat her brains out once a week. (He was joking – I think)

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:49 am

    28. Stephanie says:

      Oh, how sweet! If Sean can show his gratitude without being prompted, I don’t think he is in any danger of being spoiled. My guess is he will always remember Papa George and this incident, long after Papa George is pain-free in a better place. That’s the real legacy, isn’t it?

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:53 am

    29. Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt says:

      My hubby was an only child and I’ve heard stories of his great-uncle stopping by every single week and bringing a brand-new toy each time. I think Andy’s parents had to eventually start recycling out the old ones to make room.

      Anyway, all that to say – A’s not rotten even though he’s had his fair share of spoiling 🙂

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:57 am

    30. Shawna says:

      Papa George is now my hero! What a great story-thank you for sharing it!

      My PopPop Don bought me a piano when I was around 12 or 13. I had been practicing on an old, very out of tune dinosaur of a piano and it was getting hard to keep going. I treasure that piano that he willingly gave so I could play better. I love my Pop!

      May 20th, 2008 at 11:06 am

    31. Shawna says:

      I should add, Papa George is my hero of the day–PopPop Don is still my ultimate hero! =)

      May 20th, 2008 at 11:06 am

    32. zoom says:

      What a jewel Papa George is.

      The comments from Sue, Heidi and Ann hit the nail on the head. Stuff doesn’t spoil us- it is using stuff to manipulate that makes us rotten. This was a gift from the heart.

      May 20th, 2008 at 11:20 am

    33. Jenny says:

      Grandpa George is awesome for sure!! I am equally impressed with Sean’s sweet heart and his gratefulness. Sean doesn’t seem to be a bit rotton to me… quite the opposite actually! The picture of Sean with his new car really says it all. So cute!

      May 20th, 2008 at 11:42 am

    34. chaotic joy says:

      There is a big difference between grandparent spoiling and mama spoiling. And besides, I expect grandpa got so much more out of that exchange than Sean ever will. What a beautiful post.

      May 20th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    35. Johna says:

      I had my own “Papa George”, reading this makes my heart sing. I miss him so. And trust me, Sean will not be scarred the rest of his life, or spoiled, he will look back at times like this the same way I do. As blessed.

      Give Papa George a hug and kiss from me, and all the others like me out there. What a sweetie.

      May 20th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    36. Jeanne A says:

      I’ve been waiting my whole life———-

      My daughter said that the night before her first soccer game at 5 years old………….I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.

      May 20th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    37. Fraulein says:

      That’s awesome. Sean’s heartfelt gratitude is the best part. I’m sure all the back pain was worth it to Papa George!

      May 20th, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    38. Kara Messner says:

      I too am learning to teach my nearly 3 year old good practices – one being that we don’t get everything we want and sometimes we have to wait and pray for special things and see what happens.

      I am pretty sure in your case with Papa George that Sean may indeed learn a valuable lesson that has nothing to do with being spoiled. It might just be the gift of sacrificial and unselfish love by a PaPa named George.

      Awesome story.

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    39. Chris says:

      I was an only child…the Boy is in essence an only child, as his youngest older sister is 16 and here part-time, and I know it is absolutely possibly to raise a non-spoiled only child. Sean is lucky to have such loving grandparents closeby. Our kids are way lacking in the grandparents department 🙁

      Also, love Sean’s Colt McCoy jersey!

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    40. midlife mommy says:

      Papa George sounds like one special guy.

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    41. Chels says:

      sweet post!

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    42. Common Mom says:

      That’s what grandparents are for – to spoil our children because we “can’t” 🙂 What a wonderful time – and a wonderful memory for Sean and Papa George!

      May 20th, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    43. sheilah says:

      Oh! What a sweet picture of Sean with his grandpa. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I think this was a present for both Sean and Papa George.

      May 20th, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    44. Nett says:

      I’m sure he’s not spoiled….he’s just ripe!
      He’ll never, ever forget that little red car and how special it is.
      “Letting” our Grandparents give to our children is a gift in itself. You’ll get that opportunity some day.

      May 20th, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    45. happy Mommy says:

      Papa George is a winner! What a great opportunity to show Sean his love for him! And I am sure your sweet boy will love it!

      May 20th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    46. Cheryl says:

      As I recuperate from the mini-weepfest, I think Papa George just happened to raise half of a remarkable pair of parents, as well as the bar for all grandparents! He’s perhaps matched only by my twins’ Papa, my 91-year-old grandpa (and I’m of the antique parent variety as well) who without reservation gets into a 60 degree pool to help his enthusiastic grandkids improve their swim techniques.

      My hat is off and my heart is full. Thank you for sharing the story!

      May 20th, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    47. Antique Mommy says:

      Actually Papa George is AD’s step-father. He married Memaw after AD was grown and out of the house. We couldn’t love George (or his kids, that we refer to as simply bothers and sisters) any more than we already do if even if they were blood relatives. It’s a good deal.

      May 20th, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    48. Kelly @ Love Well says:

      I think I leave a little part of my heart on your blog each day, AM. It’s always beautiful.

      Incidentally, did Papa George have polio when he was young? My MIL’s back is also crumbling, and it’s the result of polio back in the day.

      May 20th, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    49. Geri says:

      As a Nana to a very spoiled but not yet rotten 5 yo boy let me just tell you, The big winner that day was Papa George! Trust me!!!

      May 20th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    50. Kris says:

      Oh, I love Papa George!

      That’s wonderful that Sean was so excited and expressive and grateful without any prompting, that is awesome. (Thank you is less meaningful when preceded by “wow, that’s so great! What do you say to Grandpa?!”) he doesn’t sound spoiled to me!

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    51. LeeAnn says:

      What a special Grandpa memory for Sean!

      I am also an only child. People always ask me if I was spoiled as a result, and I always say… Yes!

      My theory being that if you can admit that you were/are spoiled- you probably turned out OK. It’s the ones who think they weren’t that have issues!

      It works for me!

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    52. Roxanne says:

      That is a memory that Sean will treasure forever. Loving is not spoiling.

      May 20th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    53. Cee says:

      Precious memories! Sometimes it’s more important for a little boy to get his ‘dream come true’ than to go without. What a wonderful moment and what a wonderful Grandpa! I’m glad that his generosity was rewarded by your sweet son’s thank-you.

      May 20th, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    54. Cheri says:

      You have no idea how much I can relate to this post and your blog.

      I’m an Only and have an Only. Only Daughter is 6, I was 35 when when I have her.

      Sean is a blessed not-rotten little boy. A true gift from God. Let the Grandparents spoil him, he’s a good boy who knows he’s loved and that’s the most important thing.

      You’ve inspired me to get back on writing wagon I so quickly jumped off. I hope you’ll ready my Only post I wrote tonight after reading yours.
      http://onlydaughter.typepad.com/onlydaughter/2008/05/spoiled-but-not-rotten.html

      May 21st, 2008 at 12:05 am

    55. apathy lounge says:

      Absolutely spoiled…but not rotten.

      May 21st, 2008 at 1:31 am

    56. mamaspeak says:

      Very sweet post.
      We’ve started “earning” treats around our house lately. This can be as little as a piece of candy in the afternoon (5 mins of picking up toys) to a special toy from the mall (a serious of tasks over a period of days).I think gifts from G’parents fall under that catagory too. They aren’t gimmes so they won’t spoil. Spoilling is when the child attaches no value to anything because they always get everything.

      Sean doesn’t come across as a child who doesn’t appriciate what he has, quite the opposite in fact. The fact that he was told “not now” and he didn’t respond w/whining, etc….shows how “unspoilt” he is; and his reaction upon recieving it…priceless. His memory of such a special gift from such a special person will be his real gift in the end.

      May 21st, 2008 at 2:47 am

    57. Juanita Muenzer says:

      Reading about Papa George was balsam for the soul. Isn’t it wonderful that there are men and women like him who lift others through their actions and reactions? Thank you for sharing this with us.

      May 21st, 2008 at 7:15 am

    58. CircusKelli says:

      If he was “rotten” after being spoiled a little bit by his Grandpa, he wouldn’t have jumped up into the chair with him and thanked him so sweetly for the car. 😉

      Ya done good. Sounds like a win-win-win situation to me. Papa George got to do what Grandpa’s do, you didn’t have to break any agreement to Antique Daddy, and Sean got his car. 😉

      May 21st, 2008 at 9:03 am

    59. Nancy says:

      Naw….spoiled is when they’re not appreciative. Sounds like you’re raising him well!

      May 21st, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    60. JD says:

      Oh my goodness…I have tears in my eyes! I also think I’ll have a hard time not spoiling my little girl I’ve waited so long for.

      May 21st, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    61. imagine community says:

      I have a four-year-old who came after a ten-year wait, shortly before my 40th birthday. I go through the same struggles. But treats from the grandparents are different. I have to say, I was incredibly proud of the little guy the other day. We went to see my parents’ neighbor, who is almost 90 and who lost her husband of 65 years some months ago. Little Guy sat patiently, asked about her cat, told her about his dog and his fish, and was generally very well behaved. Afterward, I thanked him. “She needed it because she’s lonely,” he said. I almost cried.

      May 21st, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    62. k&c's mom says:

      Papa George knew your son had been waiting “his entire life for one of those.” God bless that man richly! Heal his body! You and your son are blesed to have such an angel in the family.

      May 21st, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    63. Mary says:

      I have a 12 year old boy that is an only and he has Grandparents that dote on him daily. I’m proud to say he’s very spoiled but not one bit rotten. It can be done.

      May 21st, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    64. Michelle says:

      That is the best Papa ever! I started to cry as soon as I read the part about him having to wait in line for 2 hours with incredible amount of pain. That Sean is one lucky little boy!

      May 22nd, 2008 at 1:14 am

    65. Deanna says:

      Ah, I think it’s totally possible to have spoiled minus the rotten! I basically have two ‘only’ children because they’re 10 years apart. They’re both spoiled! And only rotten part of the time!

      May 22nd, 2008 at 6:06 am

    66. Mary says:

      There is plenty of time to teach the good lessons of earning money and saving for a desired object. But when you are 4 years old and get something that you have wanted “your entire life”, that is something that will be a golden memory for the rest of his life. By the time he is 6, he may outgrow the desire to have such a toy and move on to something else. You will know the difference between spoiled and spoiled rotten. Spoiled rotten are the ones that throw tantrums in the store and are given what they want just to stop the tantrum. My children have been “spoiled” by a very dear Aunt. Their favorite memories of her are not the things she bought for them but the time she spent with them. She taught them how to play poker with pennies. She played board games, dress up, school, etc. That’s why they love her. Yes she spoils them. But not spoiled rotten!

      May 22nd, 2008 at 9:24 am

    67. TheCottonWife says:

      As much as your other post had me laughing, now I’m crying. Stupid pregnancy hormones.

      What a wonderful story.

      May 22nd, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    68. Jackie Hall says:

      If Sean WASN’T that thankful for any give large or small THEN you would have to worry. I love his response. It will be something you will always rememer even if he doesn’t. You have a delightful son and you and your husband are doing a wonderful job with him!

      Congrat’s on getting the care of your dreams Sean….. Well the first car of his dreams anyway!

      May 22nd, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    69. Llama Momma says:

      This story has me weeping. The car from Papa George wasn’t overindulgence…it was pure love.

      And children can never be spoiled with love.

      May 24th, 2008 at 8:58 am

    70. Jaime says:

      I can’t remember how I got here, but I love, love your blog. From the guest towels to the salt shaker to Papa George’s gift. I started with “aww, sweet,” then I laughed, and then I cried. You do a wonderful job of capturing your son and the beauty of family in words.

      May 29th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    71. Nichole says:

      That’s the sweetest! I think I love Papa George.

      May 29th, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    72. Jodie @ The Sky Is Only Dark Between the Stars says:

      Papa George doesn’t know how to love small. I love that. This is a beautiful story. I’m so glad he got the car for Sean.

      This is the sweetest story ever – and SO well told.

      You’re writing is always surprising. You’re VERY good.

      May 29th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    73. Heather says:

      Oh, yes, the grandparents can have a tendancy to unravel our plans to raise a non-materialistic all right! Same problem here. I say to my mother ” Mom, we never even had color TV until I was 16 years old! Do you really think he needs a TV to take in the car with him?”
      God love the grandparents. They are able to spoil their grandkids in a way that was not poosible when we were young. There were no dollar stores, no Walmarts. It’s a double edged sword is it not? I am right there with ya, honey!

      May 29th, 2008 at 8:19 pm

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