Friday, December 01, 2006

The roller coaster

This week at school has been dedicated to the Scholastic Book Fair, and last night I went up to volunteer. Before I left the house, the kids were describing the books they wanted and I said I would look for them and maybe buy them for Christmas gifts. (Don't you always want to be a little vauge - for the "surprise factor"?)

At the Fair I looked, with little success, for the book Joshua wanted. Not to worry...It was so heavy on his mind that he called me to see if I had found it. We spent several minutes on the phone, Joshua describing the book and its location on the book shelf in relation to the main entrance, and me walking all around looking and asking one of the librarians if she knew anything about this particular book. Finally we discovered it - in the hands of one of Joshua's buddies. James had the last copy at the Fair and when he learned Joshua wanted it, he gave it to me to buy for Joshua. What a nice kid!

Upon arriving home, I was bombarded with, "Did you get me...?" questions. I answered vaugely (that "surprise" thing), but Joshua pressed me so I said I did get the book he'd wanted. Then he said he wanted it now and I reminded him it was for Christmas. Oh - that didn't go over well! At all!!!! Joshua started crying and yelled that he wanted it now, and if he'd known it was for Christmas he wouldn't have asked for it. He started tearing paper up. He ranted about "wasting" a Christmas gift. He said he would do anything to have the book now - even offered to give me his pet mice.

Joshua has never handled disappointment well, and this display was a reminder to me he still has a lot of growing up to do. I talked about disappointment with him and tried to help him understand that he needed to get control of himself. Attempting to reason with him is often futile, but I thought pointing out that his mice really are much more important to him than this book would help him see how outrageous he was being. I'm not sure what it was, but something helped him calm down.

He came up with the idea that he could buy the book from me. He asked, "If I give you the money, could I buy the book? Just like I was buying it from the Book Fair?" I agreed to that request because if he'd given me the money beforehand, I would've bought it for him when I was at the Fair. "Ahhh," I thought, "it's settled then." But then I asked him how much money he had. Not enough. And then despair hit again as he considered it would take him "forever" to earn the money. (He gets irrational very quickly!) Surely Christmas would be here before he earned the money and, well, that's just too long to wait! I said good night, kissed him and came downstairs.

Moments later, Joshua came down, plopped $5.20 by my side and asked for the book. Elizabeth had loaned him the money he was short. OK. So I gave him the book and he went upstairs. Happy. And once again I thought, "So it's settled then."

Moments later, again, Joshua came back down as "buyer's remorse" had settled in. He was wondering if he could keep the book for a week or two, give it back for a full refund, and then accept it on Christmas as a gift. I told him, "No." He could buy it now or wait 25 days and have it as a gift. That was my "final answer." I could see the pondering going on in him. What is more important? How can I make up my mind? Can I really wait that long? Do I really want to spend my money? Finally he handed me the book, I refunded the money, and I was certain the issue was settled. Joshua went to bed and stayed there.

So I got off the roller coaster and wondered, "Did he learn anything tonight?" Times like this one make me wish for perfect wisdom, or at least a parenting manual that tells me what to do in every situation. I want to train my children in self control, help them learn how to handle disappointment, teach them to make wise decisions. And I realize I'm still working on those very things for myself. I am reminded once again of my desperate need for God and am so thankful for His grace and patience with me.

Has anyone else been riding roller coasters?

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