Sure, I have given them credit previously for all sorts of things like my easy-going demeanor, work ethic, intelligence, good looks and rapier wit to name a few. But recently, my mother and father, or more to the point, my sons’ paternal grandparents, have displayed a level of restraint that deserves acknowledgement.
Over my years of parenthood, I have come to the realization that any lesson that is to be taught to my boys must have their grandparents on board. My sons have become aware that a different set of rules exists depending on who is watching them.
This has its pros and cons. After a weekend at my parents’ house, my sons may return home to expect dessert after every meal, including breakfast. However, when they find out grandma and grandpa are coming over to watch them after school, homework is done immediately so as not to have to do it under the ever-watchful, demanding, penmanship-scrutinizing eye of my mother.
“Can’t I finish this later?” asks my oldest as he struggles to keep his attention span intact long enough to write his twenty spelling words four times each. “I want to go play Wii a little.”
“Sure,” I casually say. “You can finish it with grandma when she gets here.”
This is inevitably met with silence and continued work.
My wife and I struggle to teach my sons the value of money. We try to make them understand why we simply cannot buy them that new toy they so badly want so put it back where you found it right this instant or so help me God. I was afraid that, meanwhile, my parents would adopt their undermining my life lessons persona more so than the task master persona. I imagined my kids getting punished for whining about not getting a toy then returning home to find that my parents had bought them the item in question to get them to stop crying.
So it happened that one day I decided to test the waters. My parents were set to watch my sons and I had been promising them a trip to Target with the whopping eight dollars a piece they had earned by helping me at our garage sale that was obviously burning a hole in their pockets. I told them their grandparents might be willing to take them to there if they asked nicely. They asked nicely and my folks agreed.
Now came the tough part. I told my father that my boys were to pay them back for their toy purchases with their own hard-earned money. It was not a conscious decision to choose to tell my father over my mother, but I do believe it may have been an unconscious one for even though my dad will instantly forget things I’ve asked of him (like a request to put my mother on the phone, which is sometimes followed by the sound of him watching television while the receiver lies forgotten on a chair somewhere) he is also the one who has thanked the heavens out loud that we did not have a girl simply because he feared all his and my mother’s money would have long been spent on cutesy outfits.
I was absolutely convinced that my request would be ignore and that my sons would tell me that they gave grandma and grandpa their money with flared nostrils and tight mouths, the telltale signs that they were lying. I would then be faced with the uncomfortable task of explaining to my parents that they were making things difficult on me, a task that I say is uncomfortable but that the insubordinate teenager inside of me secretly relishes because the tables have been turned. Now who is the irresponsible one?
To my surprise, the boys showed me the Hex Bugs they had purchased the next morning and guarded them like they were made of solid gold. This was because they had been forced to cough up their beloved cash to my parents, which I think surprised even them. They were used to getting one over on the grandparents and this time, they sided with their old man.
Cheers, mom and dad. You did me a solid on this one. This has gone a long way toward convincing my sons that the entire world is not to be bought by their parents. If they want the world, it’s going to require selling a lot more lemonade than usual. Like twice as much.