December 3, 2004

It's All About Them.

That's how it is supposed to be. At least that's how I see it.

I learned a very important parenting lesson when The Boy young. Actually I learned a hundred thousand million very important parenting lessons when The Boy was young, but there's one I had to learn several times before it stuck. I made the same mistake more than once. Imagine. Well, calling it a mistake is a bit harsh. Let's go with learning curve.

After The Boy arrived I could not wait to share with him all the exciting wonderful fantabulous marvelous cool incredible things the world has to offer. Of course that meant all the things I thought were exciting wonderful fantabulous marvelous cool and incredible. Because surely if I found them worthy, The Boy would also. Books. Food. Toys. Music. Activities. People. Pets. Games. Life. Oh yeah, we were going to be busy!

But there was that lesson I had to learn and then learn again. Pesky lessons.

I once gave him an Erector Set. I recall being so excited about that Erector Set. It wasn't just about the giving of the gift, rather the anticipation of he and I working together to construct things with it. I envisioned hours spent sitting on the floor with pieces and parts spread out around us as we built something cool that moved. No real vision of what we would build, just me sharing with The Boy something I thought was nifty. Sharing me, if you will.

I've never been particularly good at building things and had never touched an Erector Set before. I had Barbies growing up. But The Boy was, well, a boy. And that Erector Set was a cool boy toy. (Yikes, did I really feel that way?) It also had another appeal. Because I love things with lots of parts with lots of different activities that are packaged in efficient storage containers! For those reasons, that Erector Set really appealed to me. I was so certain he would find it as cool as I did.

When we sold that same Erector Set at the garage sale we had before we moved the summer before last, it had been used... oh, maybe three times. The Boy did not share my fascination with attempting to build things with little parts. And he didn't seem to have a real appreciation for my mild obsession with toys that came in efficient storage containers. Okay fine. No big deal. Hrumph.

Yet there were many things about which he and I were equally enthusiastic. One was the library. Man, we'd kill hours at the library. Reading, browsing, sharing. And of course we'd take books home to read. Some together, some individually. (We still share books. I hope we always do.)

Then there was the whole thing with the Matchbox cars. Actually, this probably came first. The Boy, as many children do, had a few Matchbox cars. He was maybe five or six years old. I decided one year for his birthday to get him a box to keep his cars in. Out to the store I went and picked out this suitcase-style container with racks inside. It was black. I fashioned a cover for it using a plastic transparency, construction paper, an old "Hot Rod" magazine, and a magic marker. (No, it wasn't as bad as it sounds. It turned out okay.)

And it's not that he didn't enjoy his Matchbox cars and carrying case. He did. But it did not inspire the same level of enthusiasm in him as it did in me. I mean I was stoked about that carrying case! Yet it was far from him favorite toy. We did, however, spend many hours with those cars, usually at my suggestion. "Hey, let's play with your Matchbox cars!" And he'd agree. We didn't sell that item at the garage sale. We kept it.

So I began to get a clue. When he and his friends got into Magic: The Gathering, well I was right there with them. We got some of my adult friends into it too. Me and my friends would play cards with him and his friends. Good times good times. (Does he remember it that way?)

By then I understood. It was not just about me sharing my interests with him and expecting him to embrace them as I did. It was about him discovering his own interests. He had things to share with me as well.

And he still does.
How cool is that?


Amy said...

Hi! I came across your blog on BE. Just wanted to congratulate a fellow NaNoWriMo winner! (I chose the birdie icon).

BTW, I *loved* Erector Set when I was a kid. I always had to play with my brother's because no one thought the girl would want one, I guess. I had to beg for a chemistry set when I was thirteen. I loved that, too.


Trish said...

This post brought a HUGE smile to my face. I'm convinced our children are given to us, not only so we can teach them, but so they can teach us.