Four-Year-Old Eyes

For a few moments pretend that you are a four-year-old boy. You’re at the grocery store with your mom and you’re sitting in the shopping cart. Not in the seat where you stick your legs through the slots. That’s for babies. You’re a big kid and you’re sitting where all the groceries go.

You and your mom are done shopping and are now waiting to check out. You’re looking around and spot a really cool looking toy. You don’t know why it’s in the grocery store, but there it is.

So, you ask your mom if she’ll buy it for you. You can tell by the look on her face the answer is probably going to be ‘no’.

She looks at you, but doesn’t say anything right away. You can tell she’s thinking things over, but isn’t sure of her decision. It seems simple to you, it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Her answer surprises you.

She says, “No, honey, we can’t buy that today.” You thought so. That part doesn’t surprise you at all.

But, the next part does, because she goes on to say, “It’s almost Christmas, so you can ask Santa for it. Maybe he’ll bring it to you…IF you’re a good boy.” She continues, “You know Santa is always watching, so you’ll have to be good.”

That last part changes everything for you. There’s no way you can be good all the time. Sometimes you’re in a bad mood or are over tired. And sometimes your little sister is so annoying you scream at her. You apologize later, but you’re not sure if that counts.

And then another thought strikes you and it’s kind of scary. What does she mean, Santa’s always watching? How? You want to ask, but you’re not sure you really want to know the answer.

Why did she have to say that, you wonder? Up until then you thought Santa was fat and jolly, wore a red suit and loved to bring toys to kids. You had no idea he was watching you all the time.

And finally, another idea hits you. If I don’t do what other people want, I won’t get what I want. I could see all of this in his eyes.

This event really happened the last time I was at the grocery store. Of course, I’ve supplied what he was thinking. That was very easy for me, because there’s a strong part of me that is still four years old. Don’t believe me, ask any of my grandchildren.

Here’s what troubles me about this story.

Not only does it fill the boy with unnecessary fear, but it also directs all of his efforts into pleasing other people. And, it takes away his power and gives it to others.

I don’t want to place blame on the mom. She’s probably only repeating what she heard as a child. I’ve probably even done or said the same kind of thing, without considering the impact.

So, what could she have done or said?

How about this.

She could have said that it was possible, that together, they could think of ways for him to get the toy he wanted. That he could put it on his Christmas list and wait to see if it arrived on Christmas morning. If it didn’t, perhaps he could do a few extra chores around the house to earn the money to buy it later. She could help him see that HE has power inside of himself and let him know that she will always help him.

I would love to have heard that.

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2 Replies to “Four-Year-Old Eyes”

  1. Great advice, Dad! I’ll keep this in mind for when Tessa is a bit older and can more thoroughly process these concepts. I can think of an analog to this story and the notion of always being watched and doing what other people want/tell you what is right. I know it’s not your belief, but it remains of one of my hangups.

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    1. This one seems to easily strike home with me too. So much happens under the surface, but means so much. Easy to take things for granted and always is worth my time to ponder. You’re a great ponderer, so I’m willing to bet you’ll be able to release some of the hang-ups over time.

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