Some boys lug around their tub of cars. Others carry their blankets everywhere they go. Some have a favorite superhero. Although my son has had all these moments of favoritism, for now his loyalty involves three boxes.
These aren’t your ordinary brown boxes. These are Hot Wheels Trick Track boxes. These boxes represent all his wishes and desire, his dreams and his fantasies. Yes, he plays with the contents of these boxes, but I actually think he has logged more hours just gazing and studying the pictures on these predominately blue boxes.
The backs are his favorite. There on the back are pictures of boys raising their fists in awe as they watch Hot Wheels Cars careen through the connected Trick Tracks. He knows which Trick Tracks he has and which ones he needs to buy.
Sometime this past winter he became aware of Hot Wheels. Whenever we were in the store, he always convinced me to let him and his younger brother wander through the toy department. While the 2-year-old was fascinated by all the toys that had sounds and lights, he sat quietly on the floor, as if before a throne, and one-by-one studied each Hot Wheel’s Box. The inevitable mantra was, “We need to buy one of these.”
My response was just as predictable, “We’re just looking.”
Three months passed. He still seemed interested. His cousin got one. He seemed to enjoy it. I hate buying my kids toys. Their interest quickly fades and they only clutter the floors of our house, but this Hot Wheels fascination didn’t seem to not be fading, so I was quite excited to see him open his birthday presents, two boxes of Hot Wheels Tracks.
He was elated, ecstatic. It was worth the wait. I was as happy as he was. He played for hours each day with his new gift.
But the next time we were in the store it was the same, “We need to buy one of these.”
My response was a bit different, “You already have some. You don’t need anymore.”
“But maybe after Christmas.”
I paused, “Maybe you could save up your money and buy another one. But you will need a lot of money and it will take a long time to earn it.”
For the next couple of weeks he was focused on his goal. He’d find random coins in our house and race to his money jar. He’d ask his grandparents if he could do chores for money. He’d go to the store and say, “Maybe, now I can buy these.”
I kept putting it off.
Finally, I gave in. We took his jar of effort, bought a new box, and irritated everyone at the U-scan as we placed each penny, nickel, dime, and quarter into the coin slot. Our total was 7.99. After 3 dollars and 45 cents and way too many times buzzing for a cashier (the machine kept miscounting the amount of money we were putting in) I swiped my debit card. I figured this 4-year-old mind had learned the lessons of delayed gratification and working and saving.
Now he has three boxes to lug around. Each night he sleeps with them. When I creep back up in his room to make sure the covers are keeping him warm, I find three boxes lying on top of his comforter.
Now he randomly announces, while inspecting the demo pictures on the back of his boxes, “This one takes a lot of money. But we don’t have a lot of money. But I’m going to get a lot of money, and then we can buy one of these.”
Parenting is a strange thing. You think you’re teaching your child one thing, but they learn a completely different one, and I guess that is ok. It all seems to work out in the end. Or at least that is what I tell myself when I announce that the brownies are all gone and in response I get, “We need to buy more.”