Friday, January 13, 2012

I felt guilty about the MP3 player.

My husband and I felt a huge wave of emotion when the girls opened their MP3 players this Christmas.  They were not the coveted iPod touches they had begged for since last Christmas.  Instead, they were affordable knock-offs that came in bright, personalized colors.  As we steeled ourselves for their disappointment, they floored us instead with their enthusiasm.  As they tore open the paper simultaneously and read the packaging, my oldest girl’s voice grew in volume and intensity as she saw and read aloud the all important phrase, “TOUCH SCREEN.”  We got the video camera out as quickly as possible to capture their unanticipated elation, but, as hilarious as it was, it still didn’t capture the overwhelming ecstasy of their first reaction.  We felt like Oprah on one of her Favorite Things episodes.

We outlined the attributes and limitations of the devices, because we did not want to mislead them about the reality that they were not iPods, but they were not disappointed in the least.  They, instead, were thrilled.  They immediately began snapping pictures and recording video.  They plugged in their ear buds to check out the music we had loaded for them, and our middle daughter took delight in looking through the library of photos we’d transferred for her.  They were the exact opposite of the kids in Jimmy Kimmel’s “I gave my kids a crappy present” montage.  My husband and I, with tears in our eyes, gave congratulatory glances to one another across the room.  Mission accomplished: an awesome Christmas gift that didn’t break the budget.  It felt like a real family accomplishment: our mad gift giving skills, the kids’ great and grateful attitudes; it all came together.
One of the great selling points (that we didn’t end up needing to sell, but still told them) was that these devices were affordable enough that the kids could be trusted with them.  Unlike high end devices, they could take their MiPods with them wherever they wanted.  This would be a test of their ability to be responsible with their own electronics.
Flash forward less than a week later.  My older daughter had her treasured touchscreen in the pocket of her hoodie, which she had slung across the couch cushion while we watched football.  I was crawling back to my accustomed spot in the back corner of the sectional, and proved that the weight of my body on top of my bony right knee was more than a knock-off touch screen MP3 player could handle.  At first, I didn’t comprehend her look of utter dismay, as she dug in the pockets of her jacket.  But when she pulled out the cracked device, and began to cry into my lap, it was all I could do to control my own emotions.  I tried to be parental and reproach her leaving something she valued so much in such a thoughtless place.  I reminded her that we had expressly told them of their responsibility to take care of the devices, and that putting them where they could be stepped or sat on was an explicit violation of that responsibility.  Through her tears, she determined to spend her own money to replace the defunct device, then continued to cry in my lap for another twenty minutes or so.  It was torture to sit by and let her mourn.
What my daughter doesn’t know is that after everyone was tucked in that night, I cried too.  In that one moment, I had gone from Oprah to the Grinch.  I could not believe that it was me!  I was the one who had broken my kid’s favorite gift.  I know it could have been anyone; after all, she left it hidden in a pocket on the couch.  But it was me.  I had disgraced our victory.  I had turned triumph to tragedy, in the world of a ten year old I love.
The next morning, when replacing her MiPod was her first and most emphatic thought of the day, I let her off the hook and told her I would split the price, because I wanted her to know how sorry I was for being the one who broke it.  I wasn’t sure if I should have done that or not.  But now that she has her new one, I don’t think it detracted from the lesson.  Both girls are taking care to keep them in cases and tuck them away when they aren’t using them.  And I’m going to be very careful where I step or sit.
We also bought the product replacement plan on the new one.  Duh.
I did feel bad at first, but I don't now. I know that the letter hurt you for a while. Now I am happy, but not because I hurt your feelings. It is because God used your hurt feelings to make you turn back to him, and none of you were harmed by us.When God makes you feel sorry enough to turn to him and be saved, you don't have anything to feel bad about. 2 Corinthians 7:8b-10a

No comments:

Post a Comment