This is not simply to tattle on my 11-year-old son, because what happens regularly in our home is being repeated millions of times daily in households across this great nation of ours.
Annoyed parent: “I’ve asked you three times. Turn off the Gamboys/DS/Wii/computer!”
Annoyed boy: “O-k-a-a-a-a-y! I just have to get to the next level.”
I know this is an American phenomenon, in fact, not just because most of my friends with boys ages 7-18 tell me so, but because I saw a t-shirt for sale in the boys’ section at Target that read: “Just let me get to the next level.”
Now time for me to tattle on Sam. Before Christmas, he was in full pout because he was sure he wasn’t getting an IPod for Christmas. “It’s not fair. Everyone in my class has an Ipod!”
That’s when Steve and I pull out the Bijwajit guilt card. Bijwajit is an Indian boy, also age 11, who our family sponsors through Children International. About $25 is automatically taken out of our credit card monthly; we barely notice the money is gone. Bijwajit’s father makes $50 a month. His family of four lives in a concrete, dirt-floored, two-room house, with no running water or electricity. Hey, at least they have two rooms.
“Hmmm. Wonder if everyone in Bijwajit’s class has an IPod?” I say.
“Maybe Bijwajit will get an extra grain of rice in his stocking,” Steve says (even funnier since Bijwajit’s family is Hindu).
“STOP talking about Bijwajit! ” says Sam. “You always talk about Bijwajit when I want something!”
Sam’s right and, in my heart, I know we’re wrong. But on some level, we’re trying, however ineffectively, to teach Sam how lucky he is, how he’s not deprived for the lack of an IPod. We want him to understand that Bijwajit’s father, who is a taxi driver, would have to work for four months to buy an IPod. And that’s not even covering the ITunes downloads.
On another level, Steve and I are being hypocrites. We don’t make $50 a month. Although we’re not swimming in luxury items, we’re another “average” two computer, two IPod, three TV, one Wii family.
It’s Sam’s sense of entitlement that we’re railing against. And the guilt (well, my guilt; Steve, remarkably since he was raised Jewish, doesn’t do guilt) that it’s our fault. If Sam has a sense of entitlement, it’s his parents doing. We got him the Gameboy, the DS, the Wii, and the dozens of $40 games to run on all of these high-end toys.
The moral of the story? After Steve and I discussed it ad naseum — since I was heartily against it and Steve believes if Sam wanted it so much, why not get it for him — we bought him an IPod. And we sent Bijwajit an extra $25 for Christmas.