Download PDF

Yes, “Dad, I want a zebra.”  I actually have not had that statement declared to me but have certainly had some of the same ilk.  However, I could at any time have that come my way and have had many others just like it.  This came my way via a great conversation with someone who’s identity I will protect.  For you the reader let’s just call her C. Muscara.  No, wait, let’s go with Cathy M.   Either way, we were talking emotional/relational needs and parenting and she brought up an excellent theoretical situation.

Imagine this, your son/daughter comes up to you and says, “I want a zebra.”  Now, if you aren’t a parent (as I used to…not be), don’t click on the “x” or leave and check your twitter…it will still be there.  This applies to you as well as an aunt/uncle/friend/cool neighbor etc.  So, they want a zebra.  What’s your response?  Cathy, errrrr, “C” and I both agreed that we would quickly begin to explain to our child how that simply wouldn’t be practical.  Whether it be the cost, convenience, functionality, or whatever, it just wouldn’t work.

Now, what if instead you just went with it?  “Wow!  That WOULD be cool!  What would you do with it Sally?  Who would you show first?  How would you ride it?  Do you think it would be fast?  What would you name it?”  What could possibly be the harm in going with it for just a little while?  More importantly what good would it do?  Sally, would be able to dream for a bit with their mom/dad.  She would feel supported, encouraged, have lots of attention, and potentially have some real affectionate closeness with you.  What then, is the harm?

Well, the harm is quite obvious.  You’ve now taken a whim and allowed it to be an obsession.  Do you really think that you can put this genie back in the bottle?  No way.  “So daddy/mommy when can we go get a zebra?  Wait, I can’t have a zebra?  I reallllly want a zebra?  You said that it would a fun idea.  YOU SAID IT WOULD BE AWESOME!!!  What happened?  Why did you change your mind?  THIS IS SO NOT FAIR!!!”  Yeah, you can definitely see THAT happen.  Now, she feels less secure (why is today different than yesterday?), more alone, and generally just disappointed/angry.  There is more than enough of that with our kids today.  We don’t need more of that, caused BY us in the first place.

So, is it just a nice idea that simply is not advisable?  Perhaps this is where the cool aunt/uncle/friend/etc. comes in.  THEY are the ones who can come alongside and dream the “crazy” dream with your son/daughter?  Remember, we don’t need to be our child’s friend.  We need to be respected and loved but not necessarily “liked” by our kids.  Yes, many many parents miss this.  As it is, every child  needs an objective third party adult in their life who does not have the authority to punish.  Back in the day this was very often a grandparent.  My mother’s father was very much this to me.  I could say, “Pop Pop, watch this!”  I would then dance back and forth and jump to my knees (read: violently shake around and then sort of stop, awkwardly).  His response?  “Wooooooooooo!  Great job.  Do it down Sam, one two (to this day I have no idea who “Sam” was but Pop Pop knew my name).”  So maybe, that’s the role of that person in our kids life.  But what about us?  Do we just have to just be the heavy?

Perhaps not.  Perhaps we can listen to them explain how much they want/need to have a zebra and then say, “Now, we both know that getting a zebra is just not something we can do for many reasons but I agree, it would be cool!  Tell me, what could/would you do with a zebra?”  Then you just go from there.  You stem the tide from the obsessive behavior, you still come alongside and dream with them, and you have the best of both worlds.  Perhaps.  Although, I’ve been a parent long enough though to know that there is a third or fourth variable that I’m not even considering that would blow this entire solution to pieces.

So, what say you?  What’s your brilliant solution?  Do you have one or would you just go with, “Get out of here with all that zebra crap!”  Too close to call really.

Share This