The parable of Tony ….

So Connor and I are chatting on the way home from school on Friday afternoon, and Connor is telling me all about his friend – let’s call him Tony – for the purposes of this discussion.

Connor has often mentioned how envious he is of Tony.

Tony always has new stuff, gets to take his Nintendo to school every day, always has pocket-money to spend at tuck-shop and generally appears to have rather a comfortable life, in Connor’s eyes.

I agreed with Connor that Tony was lucky he got to take his Nintendo to school, and have all sorts of nice stuff.  And it was a case of each parent to each child deciding what was right for their child, and what one parent decided worked for them, might not work for another parent.

If Tony’s parent(s) decided to give their child things (which I personally felt were excessive, but did not mention this to Connor), then that was really up to them. 

Connor kept telling me how lucky Tony was (and in the silence between his laments clearly indicating how unlucky he was being born into this rather deprived family!)

Connor explained that today Tony was playing Nintendo, and when Tony’s mom arrived to fetch him for Tennis (she has to leave work early to get to the school to take Tony to practice, so you can imagine that it is a bit of a rush for her), Tony said “No I am not going, I want to stay and play my game!”

I asked Connor then what happened, and he said Tony sat and continued playing his game, while Tony’s mom said: ”Come my boy we need to go.”  But Tony was not moving. 

Then he shouted at his mom that he was not going to Tennis and was going to play Nintendo.

I asked Connor (as this is always a good time to push a lesson home) what he thought about what he saw.

In his usual way he shrugged and said: ”I don’t know.”

Not being afraid of bleeding the information out of my son, to teach a life lesson, I said: “Okaaaaaay, what do you think might have happened if you had spoken to me like that?”

Connor – sort of smiling: “ That Nintendo would have been bye-bye.  And you would have made me do all sorts of things to get it back.”

Me: “Well you are right.  I would have taken your Nintendo away from you. I would have punished you – severely – and then I would have dragged your arse to Tennis.  So you would have lost your Nintendo and still had to go to tennis.  That is pretty much how that would have played out.”

Connor: “Yes I know.”

Me: “So you say Tony gets lots of things.  How do you think he treats his mom – who works really hard to give him all those things?”

Connor:  “Tony’s mom treats him like a King.”

Me: “Hu-huh..”

Connor: “And Tony treats his mom like a servant …. a veeeerrrrry poor servant!” (this is seriously what my son said, I really am not ad libbing here.)

Me: “Right, how do you think it is working out for Tony’s mom with her giving Tony everything he wants and not being very strict about rules and boundaries for Tony?”

Connor:  “Not very good.  Tony is really rude to his mom, and he does not listen to her, and he is also a bully at school.”

Me: “Okay, so you understand that as parents we decide what is right for our children.  And though you think Tony has it good, if you look at the bigger picture, you can see that maybe giving Tony everything he sees and wants is maybe not working out so well.  Definitely not for his mom, and maybe not for Tony as well.”

Connor: “Hu-huh..”

Me: “Connor, we are just not that family.  Even if we could afford to give you everything and anything you saw, we still would not.  You need to know that you need to work for things, because then you see the value in it.  You worked for your Nintendo, and think if you lost it, it would not be “aw, well I lost my Nintendo” you would be devastated as you know all the chores you had to do, and all the money you had to save to get a Nintendo…so you understand why it is important that you work for things?”

Connor: “Hu-huh..”

Me: “So when you are big and want to go to University, dad and I expect you to pay towards University.  It is not a case of “here is a cheque, see you in 4 years” – you also need to understand the value of the cost.  We want you to study, and we want a lot of things for you in life.  But we are not going to be handing it over to you like Tony’s parents.  It is just not going to happen.”

Connor: “Do I have to go to University if I want to be a fisherman?”

Me: <sigh> “No, but maybe can study about oceans and animals at University and still be a fisherman….. later.”

Connor: “Okay, because I really like animals, and I REALLY like fishing…”

Me: “I know, but could you maybe think about University instead of leaving school to go fishing?”

Connor <in a less than convincing tone>: “Okay ….but I am not going to get married.  Because my wife will not want me to fish, because I smell, and she will want me to not be smelly, so I am not getting married ….. and that is final.”

Me:”Okay, just to go University, we can talk about your body odour and where you will be living later, okay?”


Footnote: In this conversation with Connor, I really tried not to come across in tone as judgemental when I spoke to Connor about his friend.

I wanted him to make the mental leap without me pointing it out to him.

Tony’s mom has decided how to raise Tony, and that is her choice and the consequences are hers as well. 

I have noticed Tony’s behaviour for some time,and though he is a sweet boy, I have noticed that he is difficult to discipline and lacks respect for adutls.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to deal with that every day, and her choices might be because giving in is easier than fighting the good fight each day over everything. 

I do feel as parents, that though each child arrives with his/her own set of problems if we totally give in to our children, then the road to hell is not too far off. 

I know some people think we are quite strict (or lax) with the way we parent and gawd knows we get it wrong about as much as we get it right.  But I hope that the one thing we are is “aware parents.” 

We try to understand what is going on, and the impact it will have on our kids growing into adults, and parent accordingly – sometimes we get it right, some times we get it horribly wrong!

Our parenting has evolved, and we do parent differently now than we did in the beginning, and I trust we will continue to evolve as we get wiser, and older (and our sh&t tolerance continues to drop.)