My son Eli is going to be 8 in February. He’s a fanatical sports fan and passionate practical joker. If ever there was a kid more destined to adore the Harlem Globetrotters, it would be him.
So for his birthday party this year, we proposed taking him and a few friends to see the Globetrotters at U.S. Airways Center. They’re coming the weekend of his birthday which magically fits into our busy birthday schedule. But, since he’s never heard of them, he prefers to play a scrimmage football game with a few pals in a park near our house and have lunch at Wolflies, a local sports bar in our area. Certainly lunch and football in the park will cost less, require less work, and necessitate far less planning and energy. So why can’t we simply go for the party he wants?
Because something is deeply flawed within our psyches and we simply cannot choose the easier path.
“But Eli,” I find myself arguing, “Papa first took me to see the Globetrotters when I was your age and it was one of the greatest days ever! One that I never forgot.”
“Well,” he reasoned, “Do they play in the NBA?”
“No,” My husband, Mark, explained. “They’re kind of in a league of their own.”
“No thanks,” he politely announced. “I want to play in the park.”
“But, Eli,” I went on, “You can play in the park any day. The Harlem Globetrotters don’t come to Phoenix very often and it’s an amazing coincidence that they’re coming on your birthday. We really think you’ll love them.”
“Hmmmm….” he thought for a moment, “But I really like the grilled cheese at Wolflies. I don’t think so.”
Now my husband and I were shifting into hard sell mode. We whipped out my lap top and pulled up a U-tube of Hacksaw and Hammer effortlessly spinning basketballs on their fingers and balancing them on their noses. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. It took about 20 seconds and one particularly humorous play in which Flip loses his shirt and shorts and powers down the court in his underwear before Eli was hooked.
“This is the greatest!” Eli shouted. “Please, please, please can we go?”
Mark and I smiled at each other, content with our victory, and assured our youngest that we would get to work planning the event.
It was only then that I realized the error of our ways. Why, when it would have been exponentially less costly and time-consuming to do what Eli wanted, did we feel compelled to push him towards our idea of what his birthday should entail? It’s like as parents we simply can’t ever leave well enough alone. We strive to expose our kids to everything, to expand their horizons on a daily basis, to always encourage them to try new things and experience different opportunities. That’s not a bad thing. But sometimes it feels slightly foolish. Especially when “well enough” would have been a perfectly fine alternative.