“Do you think Mikey is spoiled?”
I was on the phone with my mom and there was a long pause before she answered, which to me was an obvious “Yes.”
I had just gotten back from Stop and Shop where my almost-4-year-old swindled me into getting a package of chocolate chip cookies from the bakery section, which he opened and ate one while sitting in the cart, as well as a box of Minion popsicles, and a Matchbox car that was lost to the ethers of the SUV before we even made it home.
While going through the self-checkout all I could think was that, as a child, my sister and I NEVER got all this junk on a shopping trip. In fact, we were afraid to even ask. I knew when my mom said we had to go to the grocery store that it would be boring and I would likely get nothing.
Sometimes we were lucky. My older sister and I knew my mother’s patience threshold very well. We would ask if we could get a candy, and she almost always responded with “We’ll see.” We could tell by the tone of her voice if that day it was likely, or not a chance. We also knew exactly how many more times we could push it to finally wear her down, but not send her over the edge.
Needless to say, it was very touch-and-go.
So, how is it that my child manages to get out of the grocery store with as much loot as someone who won the final showcase on the Price is Right?
Pulling me from my thoughts, my mom finally answered my question with, “They all are.”
“Kids are all spoiled these days.”
Before I could get defensive, she added, “But, Holly, you have to remember — I wasn’t working when you guys were little.”
And that is the point that keeps me from feeling like the worst parent in the world.
Why do I cave so easily? Because I’m exhausted. Because I dropped Mikey off at daycare/preschool just before 8 a.m. (already running late), worked a full day, tried to squeeze in a quick trip to the gym before rushing to pick him up (late, again), and knew that I still had to stop at the store. It was after 5 p.m. and dinner was still just a pipe dream, as was the bath I knew Mikey needed because he skipped one the day before.
I knew that if he asked for something and I said no, I would have to stick to it. And to be real with you, I knew I didn’t have the fight in me.
So, instead, I said yes… to all the things, apparently.
Yes, you can eat the cookie if you sit nicely in the cart so we can make this trip as quick and painless as possible.
Yes, you can have the toy car if you just stop asking me questions so I can think about what ingredients I need to make dinner.
Yes, you can get the popsicles because, let’s be honest, at this point what’s another item of junk added to the cart.
Then, as I reflect on all of this, the guilt settles in. I feel guilty that my kid is in daycare for nine hours a day. I feel guilty that, by spoiling him, he’s not getting the life lessons he needs to grow into a respectable human.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that Mikey never hears the word “no.” He hears it all the time. It’s just that sometimes it’s a hard “no,” while other times it’s more of a negotiation.
No, you can’t have chips for dinner. But if you eat your meatballs then, fine, you can have some.
No, you cannot just sit and watch your iPad all night. But, fine, you can play a game on Daddy’s phone if it means I can get the chicken in the oven.
Fine, you can jump off the couch, but you CANNOT jump over the back of the couch and down the stairwell (seriously, kid?!)
No, you cannot have a pet snake. Just… no.
See, there may be some give-and-take, but my husband and I definitely wear the boss pants. Yep, we are 100 percent in control of the situation…
Later that night, when I was trying to convince Mikey that he needs let his father give him a bath so his body parts don’t rot and give him a rash, he said to me: “OK, Momma. If I take a bath, what do I get?”
My initial, immediate, without hesitation response in my head was: “You get to live. That’s what you get.” But I think that may be a little harsh for an almost-4-year-old.
Instead, what did I reply? “You can have a Hershey’s Kiss.”
Why? Because there were dishes in the sink, Mikey’s lunch needed to be packed for the next day, both my husband and I had to put in another hour of work after he went to bed, and ain’t nobody got time for negotiations.
And this story, my friends, will definitely be going on my Mother of the Year application.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and parent of an almost-4-year-old. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.