When I was a kid, every Sunday we’d go to my Dad’s house. At the end of each visit, as he drove us back to Mom’s, we’d ask if we could stop for ice cream at the shop on the next block. The answer was usually “no.” One week, Dad heaved a sigh and said, “You know, I like to give you guys things, but sometimes I like them to be a surprise. If you ask me every week for ice cream, then I can never surprise you with it. I wish you wouldn’t ask every week.” So of course we stopped asking, but every week we held our breath as we drove past the shop, to see if this would be the week for “the surprise.”
I only mention this because I’m beginning to understand his frustration. The situation isn’t exactly the same, but it’s similar. Susie and I like to give the kids surprises. The Disney trip, for instance, was a massive surprise… mostly. And this weekend, I took David to the fun fair (carnival) and (as a surprise) I wanted to take him to a movie that he’d been wanting to see (“Arthur and the Invisibles“).
The problem is that David is a very big “why” person. As in, “Why do I have to hurry and put my shoes on?” or “WHY do I have to take a bath?” or “WHY do I have to go to bed?” Normally, the answers are, “So we can go out”, “Because you’re dirty”, and “Because it’s bedtime.” But when the answer is REALLY “So we don’t miss the surprise movie time” or “So you don’t have to bathe tomorrow before we go to DISNEYLAND” or “Because we have to get up early so we don’t miss the train,” the usual 8-year-old foot-dragging and tantrum-throwing sulkiness becomes twice as irritating. And it inevitably leads to us saying, “Why? You want to know why? Because we’re going to DISNEYLAND tomorrow, which we wanted to do as a surprise, but since we’ve spent an hour and a half trying to get you into the tub without resorting to physical violence, and we can’t just say ‘Forget it, no bath, no Disney,’ we’re going to spoil the surprise and see if maybe, just MAYBE, that will motivate you to get yourself into the tub and then into bed before midnight.” And that kind of sucks the fun out of things, you know?
I love him to pieces, but I begin to understand the heavy sigh that prefaced my Dad’s comment.