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  • The Lightning Blue Remote Control Speed Boat

    September 26, 2010

    Sometimes when I catch Sean being good, I reward him by letting him pick out something at the grocery store.  The only limitation I put on him is that it must be something that can fit in the palm of his hand.  And it is for this reason that I haven’t told him where Wal-Mart keeps the iPods.

    And so it was one day early in the summer.  When we got to the store, we headed straight back to the toy department in search of a reward. We went up the aisles and down the aisles and down the aisles and up the aisles trying to make a decision, trying to choose the exact right perfect reward that would fit in the palm of his grubby little hand.

    Finally he stopped dead in his tracks in front of a display of little boy heaven.  He pulled from the shelf a box that was about the size of a small television.  Wearing a hopeful expression, he held out his hands to show me.  Behind the cellophane window on the front of the box was a lightning blue remote control speedboat. The sticker on the front of the box read $25.

    “Sean,” I asked, “Does this fit in the palm of your hand?”

    “No. But I really want it.”

    “Well I can see why.  It is very cool.  But this is a big thing.  This is more the kind of thing you would get for a birthday present.”

    “Oh. I thought that was what you’d say,” he said with dramatic dejection.  Dramatic flair does not work on me.  I’ve had my little-boy-manipulation shot. I am immune.

    He hung his head, heaved an exaggerated sigh, and as though wearing lead boots, he walked the box back to its place on the shelf.  He patted it and then stood there looking longingly at it.  If I were a member of the Academy, I would have given him an Oscar right there in Wal-Mart.

    As we continued on, I took a second look at the boat and made a mental note in case of the unlikely event that it was something that he still wanted when he had a birthday later this fall.

    About a week later we went to a birthday party.

    And sure enough the birthday boy got the lightning blue remote control speed boat.

    I watched Sean watching the boy open the box, watching the boy’s face light up.

    I watched him try to pretend to be happy for the birthday boy as he has been instructed to do.  I noticed his bottom lip start to tremble.

    He popped his head above the crowd of kids sitting criss-cross-applesauce in front of the birthday boy.  He searched for my face.  He gestured towards the boat with open palms.  He shrugged his shoulders in a statement of disbelief.  I noticed that his ears were red.

    He got up, stepped over a few kids and schlumped over to me with the lead boots, head hung low, both arms swinging from side to side like an ape.

    He put his head in my lap and whispered through tears, “That was the very thing I wanted and HE got it.”

    Part of me wanted to give him a stern lecture about how silly he looked, about how grateful he should be for all that he has, about how he should focus outward and not on himself, about how it wasn’t about him today, about how he will have his own birthday this fall, about how he was embarrassing me, about a million other things.

    Yet, my heart broke for him because it was exactly how I felt for years at baby showers.  I would pretend to be delighted for the mother-to-be when really I wanted to lay my head in my mother’s lap and cry bitter tears about the unfairness that some other gal was getting the very thing I wanted.

    In that moment, I didn’t really know what to do. I wanted to comfort and scold him all at the same time.  And no course of action seemed right.

    So I told him it’s not his party and he can’t cry if he wants to — and I sent him back to the party.  We would have to talk about it later but in the mean time the civilized thing to do was to play the part of a good party guest.

    The birthday party might have provided a wonderful life lesson about waiting and wanting and not getting everything you want.  But shortly after the birthday party, Sean came home from Memaw’s with a lightning blue remote control speed boat.

    Memaw had three little boys of her own at one time but apparently she needs a little-boy-manipulation booster shot.

    The School Vibe

    September 20, 2010

    For the last six years, the only question in terms of Sean’s education has been which private school he would attend.

    Homeschooling has always been an option we’ve entertained; it’s always on the table.  Public school was never an option.  And now for some reason, at this point, I sort of feel like I should apologize for that sentiment or at least insert a feeble “not that there’s anything wrong with it.”  But I’m not going to because that sort of thing makes me weary of late.

    So, for the past two years we have done all due diligence in finding the right private school for our one and only son.  We did all the research that any prudent person would do when making an important decision, not to mention a substantial investment.  We researched, we made spreadsheets, we talked to other parents.  We visited, we visited and we visited some more until we narrowed the list down to three schools.

    But ultimately none of those three schools seemed right.  All are excellent, highly rated, well-established schools staffed by professional educators.  Their stats are great and the kids we chatted with on campus were impressive. Nary a red flag to be seen.  People who send their kids to those schools LOVE those schools and can’t say enough good things about them.  Those are all good things, things that make for good marketing materials.  But I tend to operate on intuition.  And after all the visits, I never got that vibe – that undeniable voice that whispers in your ear, “You are in the right place. This is it.”

    In our area, private school tuition runs about $10,000 a year, give or take, and for ten grand, I need to have that vibe.  The ten grand isn’t for the education — it’s for the vibe.

    Well, the summer kind of slipped past and before we knew it, it was the middle of August.  It was two weeks before school started and we still didn’t have our child enrolled in school anywhere.  And so because we couldn’t make a decision, the decision was made for us. We enrolled Sean in public school.  The one school we had not considered, not researched, not visited — was the right school.  God likes to rip up my plans into itty bitty pieces and throw them in the air like confetti.

    We are six weeks into the school year and we could not be happier. We love walking to school, we love our teacher, we love the routine.

    I’ve definitely got the vibe that at least for now, for this school year, this is the right place.

    Crossing Over

    September 8, 2010

    I am a Walmart shopper, this I freely admit.

    I did not start out being a Walmart shopper, it just sorta happened to me, sort of in the same way I got pregnant — I have no idea when it happened,  I didn’t plan for it to happen, it just did. One day I wasn’t and then one day I was.  And I still kind of can’t believe it.

    Prior to having a child, I had never been in a Walmart that I can recall.  I was a boutique grocery store shopper. I did not buy my t-shirts at the same place I bought hamburger.  I liked the little grocery stores that stock 37 kinds of mustard.

    But then I had a child and I no longer needed cranberry sherry mustard. I needed preemie diapers and formula that cost $25 a can.  And as though divinely orchestrated, just before Sean was born a super-Walmart sprang up a short distance from my house.

    I understand that some people have issues with Walmart and I even see their point of view.  However, I needed cheap diapers and formula and hamburger all in one stop and there they were, so what was I to do?  My economic ideals are not all that sturdy when it comes to cheap baby formula.

    So then, that is my Walmart back story.  It does not relate to anything hereafter other than to say that I have a history with Walmart.

    All that to say, not too long ago I was at Walmart, not buying exotic mustard, unless you think French’s is exotic, and as I was strolling down the big wide center aisle, my cart automatically turned into the baby department where I have been a regular for many years.  For almost seven years, that has been my zone – diapers, formula, little socks, adorable little rompers, play clothes, lavender baby shampoo, crib toys, the occasional lullaby CD and other first-time-mom impulse purchases.

    Now perhaps you are wondering how I managed to stay in the baby department for six years and I’ll tell you:  Walmart caters to a big baby.  Sean is a string bean of a boy and when he was five, he could wear 2T. Although, admittedly when it came to long pants, a 2T on a tall 5-year-old  makes for a Steve Urkel fashion statement.  But then, we are Walmart shoppers, so obviously fashion is not a huge concern for us.

    As it were on that day, I stood there in the baby zone, in the middle of all that luscious nougat baby stuff with my six-year-old who comes up to my shoulder and I realized I was in the wrong place.  The baby zone was no longer my zone.  I glanced across the aisle, towards my new zone, the boy zone with all those big not-adorable clothes, and I dropped my chin to my chest and wept silently. No I didn’t weep, because for Pete’s sake, it is just clothes, but I was sort of stunned.  The thought of crossing over to the other side rocked my boat just a little.  I could see from clear across the aisle that there were no cute little socks or luscious anything over there, just big boy stuff, and I knew that I wasn’t going to like the new zone.

    And I don’t like the new zone.  Unlike the baby zone, there is nothing impulse-purchase worthy to be had. One t-shirt is the same as the next.

    As a mother, this sixth year has been one of many changes, firsts and milestones.  Most mothers wistfully remember the day they sent their baby off to 1st grade.  I remember the day I had to cross over the aisle in Walmart.