We've been snowed and iced in for the past few days, and I have to say that I am really starting to get cabin fever. Our house isn't very big, and aside from chores, there isn't much to do, so when we are forced to spend a lot of time in the house, a few things happen: the laundry gets done, the dishes get done, we watch an unhealthy amount of television, and we find excuses to go to the store. Yesterday, my two oldest children and I went to the store to get stuff for my daughter to make her valentines for the upcoming Valentine's Day festivities at her school. If we weren't snowed in, would valentines have been cause to make a special trip out twelve days before Valentine's Day? I highly doubt it, but we needed to get out of the house, so we went.
Once we got to the store, it took about five minutes to have everything we needed for Valentine's Day, so we decided to just walk around and look at stuff. With two small children, the obvious place to kill time is of course the automotive department. Just kidding. We went to the toy department. We stopped in each aisle for a few minutes to peruse the assortment of colorful playthings. I loved watching their eyes light up as they moved from one item to the next. I remember being a kid and doing this same thing with my parents. I loved imagining the things I could do with those toys. I would have so much fun playing with this or running around with that. I used to do the same thing when the Christmas catalogs would come in the mail. I remember being kind of sad that my parents couldn't afford to buy me many of the toys I spent so much time looking at. I knew they loved me, though, and I never did anything but love them for what they did provide for me.
Having said all of that, there was still a moment when my son had spotted something he really wanted- a Power Wheel four-wheeler. I know he would love it because my parents have one out at their house that he loves to ride. He asked if I would buy it for him. I told him we couldn't afford it. I felt horrible. As a father, I want to give my kids the world, but in reality there is a very real limit to what I can provide for them. He asked why we didn't have enough money. This is when I really started to feel crummy.
I explained to them that we didn't have enough money because I am a teacher, and teachers don't make very much money. I told them I was sorry that I picked a career that didn't pay me enough to buy them all of the things they wanted. Some reading this might take that last sentence to be one of sarcasm, but it is not. I am a fairly intelligent man, and I began college with the intention of becoming a Certified Public Accountant because accounting was something I was good at, and it was a career in which I could earn a substantial salary. Life, however, does not always go the way we expect, and in my freshman year of college, I fell in love with two things: my future wife and English. I quickly changed majors and my new career was to become a high school English teacher. I did it because it was something I really liked and knew I would enjoy. I made the decision for my own enjoyment, which is why I felt so guilty about telling my kids I couldn't afford to buy them the things they wanted.
I didn't feel crumby for long. My kids immediately said, "That's okay, Daddy. We love you." Then, I remembered something else from my childhood. My dad was my hero, no matter what. I never thought less of the man for not being able to buy me all of those toys. If anything, it made me appreciate it even more when he and my mom were able to buy us a really extravagant item. In fact, shortly before I was born, my dad left a career that he really enjoyed and was very skilled at doing in order to go work in the factory in which he still works to this day because it provided a more dependable source of income. I always regretted that my dad had not followed his heart because he felt the need to make money for me.
So, that is how I came to an understanding about the love between parents and children and the nature of sacrifice in the middle of the toy department on a snow day. I promise the next post will be funny again.