Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spoiled Rotten, or Just Spoiled?

Let me get the business end of this post out of the way right now: My son is spoiled. There is no doubt about it. He has red hair and really long eyelashes and learned at an early age that if he batted those eyelashes just right then he could pretty much get anything out of his Gigi that he wanted. So I know he's spoiled, I really do. But what I take issue with is that somehow this makes him "rotten." Let me explain.

We all know that my son is a bit OCD, right? It is well documented. And this began at an early age. He also has an insane memory. My first memories of this combination began around 2 when he got really into Thomas the Train. I would watch him watch the TV episodes with such concentration, and often I would think, "Man, I need to limit the amount of TV I let him watch...this could become a problem..." But what I realized later was that he was actually memorizing the episodes. Once he showed an interest in trains he ended up with a train table and a couple of Thomas trains (see Gigi above...). I watched what he was doing and realized that he wasn't just randomly shoving the trains around on the tracks. He was physically re-enacting the exact episode he had watched earlier. He would do the exact same thing down to the most insane details. So, to him, it was simply TRAGIC if he didn't have "Percy," or whoever, because Percy clearly played a big part in X episode and therefore he couldn't re-enact it perfectly if he didn't have Percy. It was really fascinating to watch. So after about a years time, he had every single Thomas train that had ever had a part in any episode on TV. I still say I am going to sell those things and send him to college.

This trend continued on, but with different players. Once he became obsessed with the movie Cars he needed to have every single piece or character that was in the movie. Then he literally spent HOURS re-enacting things. So if we would spend $5 on Chick Hicks, we would watch him love and play with that damn toy for weeks and weeks and weeks. The mentality kind of became, "It's only $5 and he will play with it forever..." He was never one of those kids who walked through the Toy Store wanting every little thing they saw. And then when they got said toy, they took it home and played with it for approximately 5 minutes and chucked it into the toy box. No, he goes into each store looking for something specific and if it isn't there? He leaves with nothing. Not happily, of course, but something else simply won't do. He only wants whatever it is he is obsessing on at the moment.

These "obsessions," as I refer to them, almost always correspond with stuff that he watches on TV. It started with Thomas, and then went to Word World, and then the movie Cars. After that it moved onto Spiderman, which is where I made a realization and then a decision. If it was a given that my son was going to re-enact everything he sees on TV and loves (which is it), then I needed to severely limit what I would let him watch. Spiderman taught me this. He loved it, and as per usual, he started collecting all the pieces and characters. He then started to re-enact all the violent scenes he would watch. He would become a different little boy running around the house pretending to "shoot" the bad guys. Totally unacceptable. So now he is not allowed to watch Spiderman, or anything that isn't completely non-violent and educational. (Unless he is at his mother's house, which is an entirely different post...)

So, as of now, he is allowed to watch PBS and/or Sprout. That's it. I'm sure the other channels have acceptable content, but for our house that is the rule. He is also allowed to watch science/education shows. I have mentioned before he LOVES the Life series on the Discovery Channel. And as per his pattern, he became immediately obsessed with bugs and reptiles and amphibians and plants etc... So this is where we have been lately. So like before when he wanted to get every single Thomas Train known to man kind, now he wants to collect all the bugs and reptiles he can get his hands onto. He wants books on the subject, he wants the little plastic bugs that come in those cylindrical containers, he wants anything and everything he can get his hands on. And guess what he does? Yup, he re-enacts what he sees on the TV. But you know what? My 4 year old knows more about the difference between arachnids and insects than most adults. He has knowledge that amazes me when it comes to how things work. He knows how insects have a head, thorax and abdomen, he knows that a Daddy long legs isn't actually a spider and why. The moral of the story is, I am happy to buy him things that are educational and that feed his desire to learn more.

This brings me to this weekend and the reason I started this post (like a year ago...sorry this is so long...). The Boy has been obsessed with rattlesnakes recently. Not sure what started it, but he wants every book he can find, he wants me to show him pictures of them on the Internet, he wants to go to the museum and look at them FOR HOURS...he wants all the rattlesnake knowledge he can fit up in his little head. And even though we have like 20 different plastic snakes, not one of them is a rattle snake (and yes, he knows the difference and also knows the names to all he has). So imagine his excitement when he realized that we were going to a museum this weekend on our "staycation" that had a rattlesnake. He talked about it for days before hand. As soon as we were in the car he informed me that he wanted to see that first please. Once we bought our tickets he asked the lady for a map so he could study it and find the fastest way to the rattlesnakes. And once we found it, he stayed in this exact position for about 20 minutes. And that is not an exaggeration:
He was fascinated. And once I forced him to leave this exhibit to move onto the rest of the museum his focus shifted. He figured since this museum HAD a rattlesnake, it stands to reason that the gift shop would have a toy rattlesnake. And he simply had to have it. So he kept asking me if we were done yet and he could go to the gift store. Eventually I let him and guess what? No rattlesnake. He was crushed. Simply crushed. But there was one more shred of hope. We were heading to a huge toy store and there would probably be one there. So we finally get to the toy store and he heads up to a lady behind a counter and asks, "Can you tell me where I can find a rattlesnake?" She laughs at him but points him to the rubber snake section. He ignores the rest of this ginormous store and heads straight to the snake area. He bent down and picked and pulled through literally every single rubber snake looking for a rattlesnake and there wasn't one. Cobras, king snakes, water snakes...all sorts of other snakes, but no rattle. He was devastated. He just sat on the floor with little tears in his eyes. So I went and asked someone who worked there if there was any rattlesnake anywhere in the entire store. He went and found a stuffed snake with a rattle at the end. Now, as a general rule, my boy isn't big on stuffed animals (not realistic enough for him), but it was a snake, and it had a rattle. It would work. He promptly fell in love with the rattlesnake and asked me if he could have it. I looked at the price tag and it was $9.95 with 20% off. Sure, dude. You can have it. I bought it for him and he was thrilled. He wrapped it around his neck and wandered around the rest of the store checking things out but was perfectly content with his snake. Best $10 I ever spent.

No here's the problem. We were there with all of his cousins. And apparently all of his cousins had been told by their parents ahead of time that we were just going to look at the toy store, but that no one was getting anything. (Seems kinda like torture to me to take a bunch of kids to a huge toy store and then refuse to get them any treats, but hey, maybe that's why my kid is "so spoiled.") So when the cousins saw him with his snake they started saying, "But [Boy] got something...you said no one was going to get anything..." My little 5 year old nephew even came up to me and said, "How come [Boy] gets something everywhere we go and I never do?" I just said, "Because I am his mom and it's my choice on what to buy him just like it is your Mommy and Daddy's choice on what to buy you." But understandably, the other kids started melting down because my son had received a toy and they all hadn't. They started running around the store pointing at water balloons, and hair ties, and baby dolls and...it didn't matter WHAT it was, just so it was something! And then it moved onto their parents who were now glaring at me because I bought my kid a snake. I became the bad guy. I was the bad parent for buying my kid a snake. There was no way to try and explain to them that he only gets educational gifts, and that we had been looking for a rattlesnake for EVER for him, and really, I have no issue spending $10 on him when he will play with it for weeks... When really, I don't have to answer to anyone. But it was certainly implied that my son is spoiled rotten (I actually heard them call him that) and that it is my fault for making him like this. But you know what? I will raise my kids the way I see fit, and you do the same. Kids are different. And if my son was wandering around the store pointing out random things on all the shelves saying, "I want that...NO wait! I want that, no WAIT! THAT!" like some of the other kids, I probably would take a different stance.

But I stand by my decision to do what I did. And you know what? My son has slept with said rattlesnake every night since we bought it. He kisses it good morning and brings it to dinner with him and sings it to sleep (all while pretending it is eating his toy mouse). He loves that damn thing more than ever. And I stand by my decision that spending $10 on something that is A) educational, and B) that he loves so dearly is $10 well spent. Here is a picture of him with his beloved rattlesnake:

PS--And just so there's no confusion, I know he is spoiled. I don't dispute that. What I do dispute, however, is that somehow this makes him "rotten." And if you still think he's rotten, well I will have him sick his rattlesnake on you. You know the one with, "da poisonous fangs dat pierce into da prey and den stun it while da jaw open REALLY wide and den swallow it whole! Yeah whole...because den it travel down the length of da snake while it digest it..."


AuntFancy said...

I completely agree with your decision and your views on what toys you (or Gigi) buy the boy. But I know and have spent quality time with him, so I see exactly what you're talking about. I'm guessing the other members of your family have not. Like you said, your boy is NOT most children wanting any and every toy in the store. And he is the most UNrotten child I have ever met. That's why he's my favorite.

P.S. Not so sure MO will be ok with even a stuffed rattlesnake. ;)

Laraf123 said...

A. It is your decision and you do not have to rationalize it to anyone B. You know your son and what he values. This is something he will value. D. It was only $10 E. I would have done the exact same thing.

I'm not convinced that your son is spoiled. Your distinction between "spoiled" and "spoiled rotten" though makes perfect sense. The difference reminds me of why I would buy my sons shirts that say, "Here Comes Trouble" but REFUSE to let them wear shirts that say "Nothing But Trouble".

Moms know our own children best--and that helps us make the best decisions we can.

Yellzer said...


raz said...

Wow, my oldest and your oldest are sooooo similar. Mine too is spoiled but not rotten (mostly). And my kids also have a Gigi (my mom) who contributes tremendously to that. At the end of the day, it's our decision on what we buy our children, what you're dealing with is jealousy more than judgement I think but there's certainly both.