Friday, February 10, 2012

We are Living in a Material World

I take a certain amount of pride in the fact that my children are not especially materialistic, as children go. When asked what they wanted for Christmas, for many years my older two children would respond with statements like "Green presents." or "A flute." Although they are older now and do covet the various accouterments that denote social rank among their peers, they tend to understand that these items need to be earned, that money is finite and that what is a function of privilege should not be taken for right.

Not so my youngest, Mikalh (MEE-koll). Somehow, circumstances have contrived to make this charismatic first grader the most acquisitive by far of my children. Don't get me wrong. He has an unflaggingly sweet nature and an unusual impulse to be charitable. But he also generally expects to receive every damn thing that he wants, whether plausibly attainable or not, and soon. Impressively, he manages to pull this off without seeming obviously bratty by politely contorting logic to justify whatever it is that he thinks should go his way. He is as relentless as a dripping faucet and as cute as a baby seal.

Last night he got onto a couple of jags which sort of typify his sense of entitlement. They also illustrate why he gets away with it without being beaten and sent to bed.

This began while I was cutting the plastic off a crate of canned dog food with a serrated knife, as he waited nearby to feed the dog.

He warned, "Please don't stab me through the heart and kill me."

"I will try very hard not to," I said tartly. "Despite it's being so close to Valentine's Day."

"Maybe you will shoot me through the heart with one of Cupid's arrows and then I will fall in love with you!", he squealed delightedly as I handed him a can of dog food. (Lately, Mikalh has been lying in bed past his lights out time reading illustrated books of Greek mythology.)

"I thought you already were in love with me, " I said. "And I think only Cupid can shoot his arrows. I'm not Cupid. I'm not even the right gender."

"I wish I was the right gender," he lamented.

"You are. Do you know what gender means?"

"No," he confessed.

"It means if you are a boy or a girl."

"OH!" he said with a gasp of recognition. Then his face turned sour "Well, why don't I have wings then?"

Wings, obviously, are something one should have if one wants. Discussion centered for the next ten or fifteen minutes around the mechanical wings he would build in his adulthood, while I made snide remarks about Icarus and cajoled him into feeding the dog, who was turning hysterical circles around the living room, in anticipation of his evening repast.

As soon as the dog was fed and the conversation had moved past his plans to conquer the human barrier to flight, Mikalh remembered that he had shopping to do. He has somehow, without instruction, learned how to use the internet to search for items he would like to purchase, and, if he had a credit card, we would be broke.

"Please can we Google a NASCAR costume?"

He had checked out a book on Wednesday, the subject of which is NASCAR Heroes, and now he needed an outfit to go with his reading material. Because clearly what the child needs is more costumes. Even though his closet looks like this:

Competently, he typed in NASCAR Heroes and brought up a costume he would like to have. But now he had a problem. Because I was not buying the damn thing for him. We just bought him three costumes for Christmas and he got himself another with his own good behavior money. (He earns this by putting marbles in a jar for worthy acts and, after two or three months, gets to buy something worth about $20.)

However, Nana was at our house. And Nana had lately realized that she "needed" more costumes for Mikalh to keep at her apartment. However, Nana has a Firm Rule.

None of the toys, books or costumes from her place can be brought to ours.

So, Mikalh's logical choices were to wait another couple of months until his marble jar filled up again, or to let Nana buy him the costume, but know that he could not wear it at home. And he very, very badly wanted to wear it at home. So, for ten minutes, he politely insisted that he both purchase the costume right now and that he be allowed to wear it back and forth from Nana's apartment to his home.

At one point, he did a dramatization to illustrate the ease with which this could be accomplished.

"I will just wear at your house and then..." He ran across the living room to demonstrate spanning the distance between the apartment and our house, "I will wear it here. Then..." He ran across the living room again. "I will bring it back again!"

The demonstration continued until he was out of breath. Then he switched tactics and explained that he would actually like to receive a NASCAR costume to wear at Nana's and another to wear at home.

"Don't you think you might want one for Grandma Valerie's?" Mike asked helpfully.

"Yes!" he replied.

"So let me get this straight" I said. "There are children right now who have no shoes, Mikalh, and so they can't even go to school, and you want duplicate costumes to wear at different houses?"

"If shoes come with the costume," he immediately responded, "I will give them to somebody else who doesn't have shoes and they can go to school."

Problem solved.  Another charitable act brought about through capitalism.

In the end, Nana held firm and Mikalh finally agreed to let her by the costume, knowing it must remain there. In two months, though...

"I will buy another one for at home."


  1. What a sweet and clever little boy. This made me laugh a lot. I love costumes. I love kids who love costumes.

    1. He is a sweet and clever little boy, and delightfully creative. If I could just get him to be satisfied with several scarves and a cardboard box and use that creativity to great effect, then many resources could be saved.

  2. omg, your post was every bit as funny as watching Mikalh perform these antics! Excellent post hon!

  3. It just occurred to me that Mikalh could grow upto become a charismatic and persuasive politician. Or a lobbyist. Hopefully, he'll make a better career choice -- used car salesman, perhaps,or con artist.

    1. Signs point to his opening a costume shop at this point...

  4. Costumes and little boys = fun! Good for you for understanding all about that whole thing. We had capes in every color in our house when the boys were little and each one had a particular purpose. I never knew which super hero was in the room, but I always knew there was one nearby. lol

  5. I never know what's gonna walk into the living room–a Greek hero, a Narnian knight, a cowboy, a Jedi, so many possibilities. I do love the variety.

  6. What a darling! It would be hard to be angry in the face of such cuteness.

    1. Too true. We definitely weren't angry. I was just taking notes for this blog post.

  7. I recently read that children who know how to negotiate with parents are more likely to be successful then kids who just accept the rules. It looks like Mikalh has a very bright future. :)

    1. I expect he will soon be given control of his own country, at least if he stays this charming.

  8. Difficult to argue with such adorable logic.

  9. I once knew a six year old with lots of costumes, imagination, charm, and similar logic. That little boy grew into a man who recently spent 2+ years in Ghana, West Africa playing with children, finding friendship in a couple of 60+ year old men and trying to find a way to help them farm trees. The tree farming didn't really get off the ground and no one made much money, but what they all gained was invaluable. Our children's charm and talents will take them places we cannot anticipate. My son has gone places I wish I had gone earlier in my life and who knows, maybe still will? I thought I had a responsibility to teach my children the way of the world; I didn't realize they would have so much to teach me.
    I greatly enjoy spending time with Mikahl. His imagination and story telling abilities amaze me. I am glad you are enjoying being charmed by him, but are able to stand your ground. It isn't always easy when they are so darned cute, creative and intelligent.


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