I can't remember the last time I was out of the house when I didn't buy a toy for my son. If I'm grocery shopping, I'll let him pick out a balloon at the cashier's counter. If we're off to the donation center managed by our local church to unload clothes that no longer fit, we'll also make an extra stop on the way home to purchase a model dinosaur or two. And if I'm on the way to the home improvement store, we'll stop at McDonald's, so I can buy French fries, apple slices and (you guessed it) the Happy Meal toy.
What I'm trying to say is I'm that mom who always buys her 4-year-old a toy when we're out.
Now, before you nail me to the cross and call my son Titan "an entitled little snowflake" as some will undoubtedly do, it's important to understand that I do these aforementioned things for a few reasons. The first is because I want to. The second is because Titan doesn't ask for anything. In fact, the only thing he does request is to help.
Titan first learned the concept of pitching in when he was 1. As any active toddler would, he'd get himself into some pretty precarious situations — stuck behind the couch and the radiator, wedged under the bed or jammed tightly between heavy boxes somewhere in the depths of my closet. And as a mom with a rare form of dwarfism, diastrophic dysplasia, I had to think of creative non-traditional ways of rescuing him. So, I came up with this ridiculous rhyme: One, two, three. help me! We'd combine our strength and, somehow, together figured things out.
As Ty got older, he watched more intently as Mommy and Daddy worked as a team. Does he understand how painful things can be without Daddy's help? Can he read the pain on my face? I'm not sure, but like his dad, Titan always takes my hand whenever near stairs. And in his sweet little voice, he encourages, "You can do it, Mommy!"
Now that my husband is deployed, Titan has begun to do even more things to help me. And it's really taken me by surprise.
After grocery shopping, he'll take the grocery bags and drag them into the house. He happily becomes an acrobat and reaches for things I struggle with and without first being asked. Placing dishes in the dishwasher and setting the table seem to be another favorite. And with a smile, he'll hold doors for others and take the reins of my wheelchair to push me around the store when my legs begin to tire.
So, when we go out and I see something I know he'll love, you're damn right, if I can, I'll buy it.
I am not by any means denying Titan's typical defiant 4-year-old moments. Just ask his gymnastics coach. By the same token, I'm by no means adhering to the idea my actions are spoiling him. I see it as giving him a little extra for being so kind and considerate. And I always reinforce my decision with a reason — he helped mommy pick up little brother's toy's today, for one — and a thank you.
Kindness always deserves a reward of some size, shape or fashion. And as his mom, I reward him, just as my dad rewarded me as a little girl with shopping trips to the fair for doing physical therapy without complaint.
My dad, a man whose tireless blue collar work ethic can be seen merely looking at the tough calluses of his hands, taught me that rewards for working hard can be part of the norm. And it doesn't mean you're spoiled. It means you earned it.
At 65, my dad still wakes up at 4 a.m. to do maintenance around the house and then heads off to a long day of work. Just before he comes home, he'll stop to snag a treat — a DVD and bag of M&M's. No one in my family says a thing.
He's earned it.
Maybe I do feel a bit guilty my son picks up the slack my body should tow, so I purchase a trinket to make myself feel better about the burden. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I just enjoy that consuming adorable smile and look of surprise he delivers each time. I haven't thought about it enough to lose sleep. What has kept me up at night, though, are the multitude of ways I'm going reward him for being so thoughtful and caring.
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