Ask for the puppy

As parents, we teach. It’s kind of our duty. We try to guide our kids through the rapids of their young lives before, you know, the canoe hits the waterfall.

As parents of an only child … hoo, boy. The teaching never stops, simply because the ratio of students to teachers in our household is 1:2. Twice as much wisdom to go around than vessels to receive it. Luke learned early on that he literally could not take a step in our household without a lesson coming out of it. Literally. I have told him more than once, probably within the last year, to point his toes forward when he’s walking.

All this knowledge. I have to share.

When he was much younger, I’m guessing around 7 or 8, we were in some fast food joint where kids get toys with their meals. (I am starting to think that maybe I spend too much time in fast food joints.)

(He writes from Panera.)

Little Luke opened up his bag (my guess is we were in Wendy’s), looked past the tiny burger and the box of fries and grabbed his toy. Whatever he got — and I have zero recollection what  it was — it was not one he wanted. He had his eye on the stuffed puppy on display at the counter.

Immediately sensing a teaching moment, Mary Jo and I pounced.

It is an important lesson to teach, I think you’d concede, to strive for what you want in this world, whether it’s a good grade or a girl or a good girl or a raise or extra cheese on your Quarter Pounder. Or a stuffed puppy with your lunch. It’s important, when given the chance, to ask for what you’d like — nicely, of course. Otherwise, you’re likely never to get it.

This is true, I think, whether you’re 7 or 70. It’s likely better learned at 7, I think.

So we urged little shy Luke to go up to the counter with his toy and exchange it for the puppy. We explained to him that it was OK to do so. We reasoned with him that it was better to go through the short-term discomfort of asking the big scary people at Wendy’s for another toy than to live with a … whatever it was.

We urged. We explained. We reasoned. And little shy Luke, who clearly wanted that adorable puppy, did then what he does now. Argue. Deflect. Resist.

This went on for awhile. He was/is a willful little pip, that son of ours.

Finally, Mary Jo walked up to the counter and asked for the puppy. The big visored woman behind the register coughed up the dog. The lesson was complete. Luke practically lit up with the newfound knowledge that you often need a little persistence, a small and kindly insistence, to get what you want and deserve.

Or, perhaps, he learned that a little arguing works, too.

Today, Luke is not nearly as shy and, I think, more apt to simply ask for what he wants and deserves. We, who long ago realized we’re often the students in this relationship, are a bit more wise to Luke’s persistent ways.

And the puppy sits wedged behind the visor of the family car, as it has been ever since we walked out of Wendy’s that day, a reminder of a lesson learned. Whatever it was.

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