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Smelly Socks: Maneuvering the guilt trip

By By Johanna Bloom
May 9, 2014 at 12:09 a.m.


Ranch Life

In my younger days, I seemed determined to become an accomplished pouter. My preferred method was the classic stuck-out lower lip approach. "Please, oh please," was whined as I proceeded to stick out my lower lip, bat my green eyes and tilt my blond head to the right.

I can visualize it now, and I realize that it was quite a pitiful sight. Let me assure you that my parents were rather hard cookies to crack, and this method never really worked.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I am the parent, and today's children have gotten much more sophisticated in their pouting methods. A parent hasn't fully entered the realm of parenthood until they have had to endure a true, time-honored, old-fashioned guilt trip.

As far as guilt trips go, my boys Austin and Jamison take vastly different approaches.

Austin, my teenager at 13 years old, will decide he absolutely needs something and immediately springs into action by putting his sharp mind to work: How much does it cost, what is involved in acquiring it, how he will refute the answer when Mom and Dad say "no," is it possible for him to get it himself and bypass his parents altogether, and how much time should be allowed to pass before he approaches Mimi and Popsy for it?

If his request is denied, Austin basically drops the request seamlessly and moves on, deciding that he can live without it.

Jamison, my 10-year-old, takes a much different approach. He will causally mention within our earshot that he would kind of be interested in a new Lego set. At this point, he is not expecting a remark about his mere mention. He is just planting the seed and is taking his time. After his earlier remark has set for a while, he will ask for computer privileges, and he will mention that he wants to go to the Lego website to look at the newly desired Lego set. He will go to Amazon.com and some other websites to find the absolute best price, and then, as if he is making a PowerPoint presentation, he will sit us down and present all of his gathered information including shipping costs.

Jamison states his case calmly and maturely in a very businesslike manner, with no detail being too small or anything overlooked.

While John and I marvel at his approach with our mouths open in bewilderment at all of his research and patience, he will merely place the computer under our hand and ask us to press the "Buy It Now" button on Amazon.com.

If you aren't on your game that day, before you know it, you are receiving an email with shipping confirmation.

This scene recently unfolded in our household about a popsicle-shooting Lego set that he saw in "The Lego Movie" with the hope that it would appear in his Easter basket. Jamison made his presentation, but John and I were prepared for it and stood our ground that he couldn't possibly use another Lego set.

He professionally thanked us for our time and consideration on the matter. Like all parents, I absolutely hate to say no to my children.

Jamison handled it maturely and smiled kindly as he walked away while it felt like a knife was twisting in my heart. I reminded myself that no one can get everything they want, that I was building his character and that I am shaping a human being that will have a great work ethic and will not expect things to simply be handed to him. I told myself all of the reasons that what I was doing was correct, but it is never easy to let your child down.

Mysteriously, when Jamison was given his Easter basket from Mimi and Popsy, I noticed a rectangular box that rattled like Legos.

Jamison went right for that box and tore the Easter Bunny paper off with abandonment. He gasped and threw himself into Mimi and Popsy's outstretched arms.

While hugs and kisses were being exchanged, I cleared my throat and placed my hands on my hips as I took in the scene.

The love fest stopped as Jamison looked in my direction. A sheepish smile was on his face as he looked up at me with bright eyes shining with contentment, innocence and pure joy as he hugged the Lego box. Apparently, the former tough cookie parents of mine had cracked and crumbled into pieces.

A smiling Mimi and Popsy said, "Did you see his presentation? It was quite impressive."

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom at smellysocks@vicad.com.

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