Downtown with my family and my folks on the weekend and it seemed like every shop we went into my two eldest boys found something they just had to buy. Immediately. It was as if now having laid eyes on it they could not live without it.
I don't blame them. I felt the same way when I saw the advertisement for a trip for two to London for a weekend watching football or the fine shirt on sale that would have made me look slightly more cool than I already am. It is only from experience that I am able to remind myself in those moments that this too shall pass.
It was difficult to negotiate this meandering from shop to shop with my boys. After all, we had dragged them downtown to window shop. This is by now for us adults a bit of a past-time, but for them is still like a long afternoon of teasing and temptation. You have to give in at some point and buy some kind of treat or the whole thing is borderline cruel. When to give in, and on what, is another matter.
In the sports store I managed to deftly avoid purchasing a couple more footballs. Sure they were only £2 each, but we have a half dozen of them at home already. Evading the purchase of a Manchester United kit on sale was simply a matter of principle. Such a thing will not be allowed in my home. Both my boys need shoes, however, so weaseling out of buying the awesome mini-cleats was tough. We simply did not have time to give shoe-shopping the time required. How much of this satisfied my boys is something you will have to ask them.
But then we came to the Gaming store. Browsing through the Nintendo DS games a look of earnest came over my son Brady unlike anything yet or since. On these occasions he is usually pretty relaxed and content.
But there it was: A Luigi stuffy (stuffed toy).
When the DS is off he and Elijah have recently begun to be Luigi and Mario (respectively) in their adventures around the house. This is a development I have welcomed, since I had begun to suspect that DVDs and DS games were destroying and not feeding their imaginations. Anyway, as the second child to a gregarious older brother, Brady has taken an understandable liking to Luigi. Elijah of course wanted the corresponding Mario toy.
Here in the store their eyes were wide with desire.
However, this stuffy was pretty expensive -- a rip off, actually, considering what it was. Since they had moments before been insisting on buying something worthless, my parental discernment tactics began to kick in:
"Perhaps we should look in other stores for a better deal." (Read: Let's buy some time for this fleeting desire to fade.)
"Let's talk to Mom first." (Seriously, let's get out of here for a minute so you too can think straight, perhaps see a salted pretzel you want instead.)
"You'll have to spend your birthday money on it." (Count the cost, kid.)
"Wouldn't you rather have something else?" (Seriously, count the cost. They have no shortage of stuffies, trust me.)
After I had explored all my parental options, the two were unwavering. My "birthday money" strategy had decreased the eldest's zeal somewhat, since he spent his long ago, but Brady had some left and was not dissuaded. In fact -- get this -- he was willing to buy both with his money in order for the two of them to be happy. Of course his brother was pretty pleased with this idea.
This was getting out of hand.
I managed to get them out of the store, reunited with their mother and continuing on our way to "think about it". The younger of my sons was adamant. He was committed to this plan. No amount of "are you sures?" was going to change his answer. So he and I finally ducked back into the store alone to give it one last consideration.
I said: "Brady: You know you do not have to buy one for Elijah to feel okay about this. You can just buy Luigi for yourself and that is okay. If your brother is mad I will deal with it."
His answer was genuine: "I know. I want to buy him Mario."
So we took both to the counter. And what do you know, they were even more expensive than I thought. His birthday money would actually only cover one of them. Alas: A way out!
"I'm sorry Brady, you only have enough to buy one." (I may sound like a cruel parent here, and I guess I risk that by telling this story. Surely you can understand, given how sibling dynamics can get, that this seemed a window of opportunity for me to encourage this younger brother to do something for himself for once, guilt free.)
He paused. I confess that I realized only then I had taken my parental discernment tactics too far. I had underestimated the degree of agony I was laying on him. Trying to be Solomon had backfired. All he wanted was a Luigi toy for goodness' sake. It was time to let him off the hook.
Still, I was curious to see what he'd say. The question hung in the air: You can only buy one, so what will it be? I waited. Maybe this would work out after all.
The weight of his answer was crushing:
"Okay, I'll just buy Mario for Elijah."
. . . .
Perhaps needless to say, I pitched in and we bought both. I mean, at this point I felt that I was the one standing before Solomon. I was aghast. This was ridiculous. I had been teaching him to dance on this consumer's promenade and it was as if my five year old had shown me something greater than us all.