How to buy control
A toddler in search of a remote inadvertently teaches his mother a lesson in life.
My 4-year-old son is trying to fly his self-constructed paper airplane by repeatedly heaving it up into the air. I am half paying attention to his frustration as I try to get ready for work. Our mornings have been chaotic this past month. I never get up early enough to face the day at a leisurely pace. He never wants to go school.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Mama," he calls me with exasperation. "I need some control!"
My son's plane keeps crashing on the living-room floor as soon as he throws it up in the air.
"Really?" I ask, feigning interest as I fish out his school clothes from under a pile of blankets. I want to keep him in a good mood. Whine-free minutes are most precious in these rushed mornings.
"Yes, Mama. Can you buy me some control?" he asks.
I stop and look at him. He has dried oatmeal around his mouth, lint in his brown curly hair, and a frown on his forehead. I don't know what he is talking about.
"I need it to control things – like my airplane," he explains, seeing that he has finally won my attention.
I smile. He wants a remote control for his paper airplane. I don't correct his vocabulary. Frankly, I like the idea of being able to purchase control. I could actually use some right now to rein in my frustration over his daily refusal to go to school.
"How do you think I can buy you control?" I ask, as I pull a red-and-blue striped long-sleeve T-shirt over his head. I hope he won't notice I am preparing him for his yet-to-be-mentioned destination.
"With money," he responds in his recently acquired I-know-everything voice. "But first," he explains, "Babba has to buy money at his job. Then Babba gives you the money. Then, you buy control for me."
For a brief second I am taken aback. My son thinks his father is the only one who earns money in our household. I scramble to locate my soapbox, ready to deliver a gentle lecture but I hold off and ask more questions instead.
"So, what about Mama? Can Mama 'buy' money by herself?"
"No!" he exclaims, with a hint of exasperation back in his voice. "You go to school. Just like me."
I laugh. Silly me! Indeed, I, too, have recently started going to school. I am teaching part time. The fact is, when it comes down to the day to day, so little in life is about some overarching ideology. I am grateful mothering continues to teach me to take myself less seriously and I try not to struggle too much along the way. Perhaps someday in the future there would be a need for my son and me to discuss gender, partnerships, money, and the complicated role of mothers in society. For now, I am letting this potentially teachable moment pass and I am allowing his assumption to stand.
This morning, my son and I are both going to school, together – hand in hand. He is teaching me how to buy control. I am learning how not to lose it.