Tuesday, September 15, 2009


"For you alone you are the everything" - R.E.M.

Right before our vacation, I purchased a pack of those "Magic Grow Sea Animals Capsules" for bath time. I thought perhaps it would thwart some of the shampoo screaming that makes bathing Satch such a (ahem) joy. I thought the distraction would save our friends from having to suffer along with me.

And it did - which was a great relief!

However, I didn't anticipate the lesson in growth that was encapsulated in my 2 dollar investment.

Out of the 12 creatures, some of which were duplicates, wouldn't you know there was only ONE dang lobster! And as luck would have it, his best bud got the lobster. Well, you can imagine the drama that unfolded. My son obsessed about that little piece of green foam and didn't want to leave the house until his pal came back so he could plead his need. He was so fixated, in fact, that he wanted to trade her a whale and shark for that one lobster.

When we returned from sightseeing he immediately voiced his case. His offer was rejected and a valuable lesson availed itself. He was heartbroken, but I didn't want his pal's generous mommy to encourage her daughter to make the trade simply because my son was upset. He was entitled to his authentic feelings, but I didn't want to send the message that he who screams loudest and longest wins a prize because that doesn't serve anyone. I didn't want his friend to do something she didn't want to do. I wanted to allow the conflict to unfold naturally. I wanted my son to try to solve the problem creatively and he did - he offered a respectable trade - and the trade wasn't accepted. I told him that I thought it was a wonderful trade and that I was sorry it didn't work out. I also told him that his friend did not have to trade, and that a trade is a choice. I told him that we would stop at the store on the way home and get another pack.

He lamented about the lobster (in total) for 30 hours, seriously, we counted them. We asked him to (please) stop talking about the lobster and assured him we would buy more capsules. On our way home we stopped at the Safeway, as promised, and bought the LAST package of grow foam on the shelf. The moment we got home, we poured them into the bathroom sink and prayed to the God-of-cheap-kiddy-crapola to give us another lobster. Thankfully, Larry, emerged from his capsule and saved our sanity.

I realized that we purchased more capsules, not because we were tired of the lobster-monologue (though I did feel like my brain was about to explode into bits of colored foam), we bought more capsules because the lobster was important to him for some reason we may never fully understand. We bought them because we knew it would bring him joy.

I do believe our perceptions shape the world we experience. And the thing is, I don't want my son to grow up believing the old adage, "you can't have everything". I don't want him to believe we live in a world of scarcity (though we all know it exists). It's just that the focus on scarcity, I think, promotes doubt, fear, greed and jealousy. I wish for him to see his world as abundant, hopeful, creative and generous. I want this for him because my perception is that sometimes you CAN have everything - but you may have to be creative about it - you may have to work at it - you may have to wait for it - and sometimes it's understanding what your "everything" really is, what's truly important. And when you figure that out, you often discover that you already have it all.

We had a bit of a giggle yesterday over Larry when I jokingly said to Satch, "I can't believe you were so upset over a tiny piece of green sponge". He laughed then added, "I know it's junky, Mama, but I really love the lobster".

*This post is lovingly dedicated to my friend P for her patience during tense times; to Andrea who gets it; and to Scott, whose wisdom I absorb like a sponge.


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posted by Wendy at 5:47 AM


Anonymous vickie said...

like this Wendy, and satch's last line of the post...priceless! I TOTALLY would have bought some more as you had done...but i appreciate your thoughts on not giving something to him because he is upset...it's happened to Julian where a very generous friend or sister gives the something to him because he's upset....next time going to keep this one in mind.

i love reading about how you handle these situations....makes one feel less alone.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Karen Maezen Miller said...

I see events like these showing us the limits of our teaching. The ancient essence of humanity. The unreasonableness of desire. It's really not the lobster, but the source of human suffering. And that calls for compassion!

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Jill said...

Wendy, I really appreciate it when you tell us about a conflict and how you do your best to be fair and compassionate. For as many parenting books as I have read, etc and try to examine my own responses to my spirited daughter, I just really thank you for spelling it out. I remember in high school, we used to think it was so funny to raise our hand in Algebra class and say, "um, Mr. so and so, can we have a practical application?" and so often I feel that way in response to parenting books.
thanks for sharing.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

It's a tricky one, isn't it? I mean I wouldn't mind his friend giving him the lobster if she wanted to, but clearly she wanted the lobster too so I didn't want her to give up something that she too wanted simply because Satch was upset about it. That wouldn't be fair to either child.

So very true and admittedly so very difficult to muster over a 2 inch piece of sponge and a lengthy tirade. I'm still growing.
(sigh again)

Please know that I'm fumbling my way through. It takes me some time to process these experiences. They're not always as graceful as I would like them to be. And there were moments during the 30 hours when all I could say was, "enough about the lobster". In retrospect, I'm impressed that a 4 yr old boy could have such stamina and I think it will serve him well in the future.

Much love to all,

6:48 AM  

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