I know the east coast is fussing about snow storms, but my attention has been on people storms lately. Sudden changes always cause disruption in the usual order of business, and there’s nothing quite like the boss dying suddenly to stir up the pot. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s been less than a month since the world turned upside down. I know things will settle down again, but I wish it would settle a bit quicker.
Sometimes I’m reminded that grownups aren’t all that different from children. When we’re babies, we cry and someone feeds us. Anything we want, all we have to do is cry and someone comes running. All we have to do is smile once in a while at our adult slaves. It’s a perfect system.
Some people never grow out of this reward system, and the older people get, the more tools they have to annoy the rest of us into obedience. This has often put me in the role of teaching limits of adult patience and cooperation, but I have 4 younger brothers and I used to be a substitute teacher in middle school. Want to test my ability to withstand a storm? Go ahead. Try me.
One time, I took my niece to the mall. I didn’t realize it was the first time she’d been to a mall, and I had forgotten about all those things at kid level designed to make adults insane. “I want! I want!” started increasing in decibels. I let her play one of those stupid claw machines. I told her in advance that the game is rigged, but she wanted to play, and I let her. Then she wanted to play it again. “No, I don’t think so. Let’s go to the park.”
We had this, ahem, “discussion” in one of those wide echoing hallways where every old lady walks past. Screaming bloody murder wasn’t achieving my niece’s stated goal so she threw herself on the terrazzo floor and repeatedly kicked the machine and screamed a lot more.
“Is everything alright??” “Yes, everything’s fine” I answered every scandalized mall-walker. After a while, I quit looking embarrassed and apologetic. If every parent would have this showdown with their kids, the rest of us wouldn’t have to be putting up with their tantrums. In fact, they should just get it over with quick, when the kids are still small enough to pick up and haul out to the parking lot, which sadly, was not the case with my niece. I waited it out.
In another conversation on the brink of another storm my niece demanded that I spend my hard-earned money on something I didn’t want to buy. “You can afford it!!” “Why yes, I can. That’s not the point. It’s not good for you to get everything you want. You’ll end up spoiled.” She didn’t understand “spoiled” so I reminded her of Grandma’s compost pile of rotten apples. “Do you want to be like that?” “No-ooo…?”
Don’t get me wrong, I spent plenty on indulging this kid, and I gave her plenty of love. We had a lot of fun spending our quarters at garage sales and eating out at restaurants. After a while she learned how to plan her indulgences, and we didn’t have any more storms. She learned she didn’t have to have everything, but she could have a lot.