We’re watching TV. I’m writing, Declan is watching a show designed to sell stuff using anime characters pretending to fight evil. I’ve stopped arguing. For a long time, I tried to censor these screechy, annoying cartoons. I tried to keep him on the little kid channel that teaches. It’s not going to work. He’s outgrown little kid channels, and is deep into marketing TV.
“I want…” There are commercials every second. No, you cannot have that cereal which food-colors sugar and puts it in a box. No, you can’t have that toy you’ll break or the next trend in teen-tween marketing at age five. No! I tell him, “They’re just trying to brainwash you and steal your money. Then you won’t be able to save up for your junior bow.” He really wants this junior bow. He’s been snatching my quarters and putting them in his bank–his idea of working hard to achieve a goal, my idea of entitlement. He only needs about 600 more quarters. Life is about opportunity cost, kid. The money Uncle Sam doesn’t take is precious.
Every darned show is designed to market. As someone who enjoys the psychology of marketing, I think, “Wow, this is genius.” As a parent about to get fleeced, I think, “Evil.”
So, I make up stories. “Oh, you have to be seven to get that.” “They’re on backorder.” “They don’t make those in Rhode Island.” On the rare occasion I step into a store with toys, I offer to “visit the toys.” I tell them they’re not for sale. So far, it’s worked, but he’s sort of smart and my powers of illusion and distraction are waning. It’s harder to make up effective lies.
As he gets older, he gets more and more stubborn. He says no. He touches my stuff. He disobeys, albeit without sophistication. “Who put this chair here and went into my baking ingredients?”
“Me! I ate all the brown sugar and those chocolate chips.” he admits. No kidding–I see the trail of spilled chips ending at his feet.
“No dessert for you today or tomorrow.” I say.
“That’s okay, I had the chocolate chips. And I hid the jelly beans. I’ll get them when I’m hungry.” No compunction. Just a statement of fact.
I am out of parenting tricks, so I say, “If you don’t start behaving like a six-year old, I will not allow you to turn six. You’ll stay five forever.” That oughta do it.
“You can’t do that. I’m going to be six on June 6th.” He is pulling out the glove. Issuing the challenge.
“I’ll FREEZE five!” He knows the concept of time. Time passes. But he also knows you can freeze shows while you do things like finish cleaning your room or go to the bathroom. Just maybe she can freeze five. Forever. I see the thought cross his little face. After all, I am magic.
“Mom! Make this domino disappear.” He likes it when I make things disappear. I’m not very good at the illusions now that he is approaching six. I try. He sees my slight of hand.
“It’s in your pocket.” It’s hard to be Criss Angel when the weather’s warm and I have no sleeves and folds.
“Listen, buddy, I have to talk to you. I’m not really magic. These are tricks.” I say.
His little eyes fill up, tears streaming down his face. Loud wailing ensued–the type reserved for the death of a dog or the loss of your favorite toy. “You….lied…to…me….” Kid, I lie all the time. It’s how parents control kids. I was about to lie again. Time to retract the remark.
“Just kidding.” While he was crying, I sat on the domino. “I am magic. I was just having a tough time because I didn’t eat enough vegetables.” He smiles.
“Vegetables help your magic?” I nod.
“That’s why we have to eat them.” I said. “Do you want some?”
“No, thank you. I ate all the chocolate chips.”
Back to square one. At least he wasn’t disappointed in me for life. He knows I’m magic.
Sometimes you just have to have a little magic. Whether you’re six or forty-two or frozen at five forever. Whether you find it in a flower, a butterfly, or you have to resort to the extremes and make dominos disappear.
I guess I can’t stop him from watching shows with more commercials than substance, saying “no,” and developing his inner resistance to parenting directives. But I can make a domino disappear now and again, tell him lies that keep the mystery of childhood alive, preparing him for a time when making up outrageous stories and consequences just won’t work. When life can get…blah.
So, today, I’ll freeze five. Tomorrow, who knows. Maybe I’ll commission battle gear and get ready for the teens.
Only time will tell.