Friday, December 5, 2014

Tough Love: Giving Crushed Hopes for Christmas

Jacob wants a Wii U for Christmas.

He'd had his Christmas list pretty well set for a few weeks, right up until he got to spend hours playing Wii with his cousins last weekend and decided he really wanted to get one himself for Christmas.  In case you're unaware, those things are not cheap.  And you know, for a kid always teetering on the edge of the naughty list, I'm not sure a $300+ gift is really in order.  It's one more thing for him to get totally obsessed with and for us to argue about.  Heck, the other day we were already arguing about where we'd put it if we got one, and I really don't need another thing to drag him away from at bedtime.

To be fair, as far as video games go, it's pretty cool.  He can get plenty of exercise from sports and dance games (as he's constantly pointing out), and he really has a lot of fun doing it.  We've talked about getting a system for years, either a Wii or an XBox Kinect, so we could use it for exercise and because we knew Jacob would love it as he got older.  But at that price, for this kind of challenging kid?  I just can't.

But he really wants it.  REALLY. WANTS. IT.  He's been cooking up plans in his head all week, of games he'd play and things like that.  He even wrote a story about playing it with his cousins as part of a school project this week.  He's clearly really into it, and as a parent you instinctively want to feed your kid's interests and make them happy.  But this would be a really extravagant toy.  Bang for the buck-wise, it probably would rate pretty high in the end, but it just seems like too much for him right now--money-wise and when it comes to his behavior issues.

The big problem is that he's convinced he's going to get it.  Even though we've told him multiple times that just because he wants something, that doesn't mean he's getting it, he's still talking about it like it's happening.  Maybe that's because he's generally gotten whatever his "big" gift request was...the Club Penguin hockey rink, the Imaginext Batcave, countless Lego sets...but those were all so doable.  This one, not so much.  But for a kid that's used to getting his big gift, and still believes wholeheartedly in Santa, this is a tough spot.

It's easy enough for everyone to say that he needs to learn to accept disappointment.  We all did it to some degree as kids, for sure.  But look...the kid's already dealing with all the disappointment (and stomach aches) that go with having Celiac disease.  He is constantly driven crazy by his baby brother.  He's got us nagging him constantly (for good reason, but still, it can't be fun for him either).  Blessed as he is, he's got some hardships that I can see many six year olds having a hard time with.  I truly don't know how much of the behavior stuff he can control.  Yes, he could be a better listener, for sure, but that's not to say that I don't think there are certain elements of it (attention-wise, mostly) that he either can't control or would have to work beyond-his-years-hard to control.  When you can give him a command over and over again (literally, saying "Put on your shoes" constantly until he listens) and it still takes him a while to respond, something tells me he's just got so much going on in that head that he can't "hear" what we're saying.  And given that he's such a passionate kid, a kid full of ideas and plans, it's hard to dissuade him once he gets going.  He's just not your average kid, trust me.

Ultimately I know this could break his Christmas, no matter how many other great things he gets.  He's got his heart set on it, regardless of how we warn him, and I can easily foresee him ruining his own Christmas by moping around when he doesn't get it.  He's a very intense kid and doesn't let go of things easily.  There's always such a build-up to Christmas, and to see him let down at the end of it...well, that's a hard thought.  A frustrating one as a logical parent, but a sad one as a loving parent.

I read a story the other day about a family that canceled Christmas.  They'd spent months trying to improve their sons' behavior and make them less entitled, but in the end they felt they had no choice.  Oh, they're still doing a lot of Christmas-y stuff, and they've made a really great experience out of it by using the saved money to give to others, but Santa will not be coming.  The kids will get gifts from family, so they'll be far from deprived, but still...that's a big step.  In my anger and frustration, I've thought about doing something similar many times over the past few years.  Jacob is spoiled enough and I'd like him to know that being on the naughty list is a real issue.  But I've always stopped short, because Christmas is...well, sacred.  I remember back to being a kid, and how exciting all of the build-up was.  I waited all year for this one amazing time of year, and for this one exciting day.  I can't imagine how crushed I would have been if it simply didn't happen.  I worry that it would break his spirit, not just teach him a lesson.  And really, once he was old enough to know the truth about Santa...well, at some point I know he'd probably respect us for it, but he'd probably spend a few years really ticked off at us about the Christmas that never was.

It's complicated now, too, since Carter is around and there's no reason for Santa to skip him.  Not that Carter would know the difference, but I don't want to send the message to Jacob that Carter did something wrong to deserve it, too.  And it would just be horrible to have Carter opening presents and Jacob not.  There's a point at which it's not even about the stuff...it's the insinuation in the mind of a six year old that somehow he doesn't matter.  Even if he's been warned, even if material things don't equate to love...I just have a feeling that's how it would be internalized.  And I just can't do that. 

This morning we stopped at an event at Jacob's school where he got to sit with Santa.  And of course he told him he wanted a Wii U...and that was it.  Lovely. I eventually told Jacob flat out that it wasn't happening, and of course he was upset.  I will say, though, that he hopped right back on board demanding/adding things to his list.  When I brought up the possibility of putting his behavior rewards toward earning enough of it to get it next year, he didn't like that.  He pretty much said he just wants to get it.  Which tells me that he probably would be well-served by the experience of earning it.  We'll see how this plays out.  He'll be a very lucky little boy regardless come Christmas, whether he believes it or not.

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