One of the more frequent topics of my blog, Gil The Jenius, is about the power of choice. It might even be the underpinning to the blog’s zeitgeist, if you will.
The shortest post I ever wrote was exactly that: What is the power of choice? Aware of that power, I helped my son learn it…and I learned more about it as well.
Kaleb was four, close to turning five. I picked him up at the pre-school and we went to the mall, looking for a few items, but with a particular one in mind: a little race car. At the time, I had made huge copies of a racetrack and with my son and nephews, played a dice-based racing game. We used Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars to spend a few hours a week playing and racing, with Kaleb winning more often that anyone else, I might add…miffed.
We went into Wal-mart and headed for the toys section. A dazzling array of cars covered almost half an aisle and as Kaleb looked for his, I looked at the goofier ones (a hot rod hearse caught my eye.) After a few minutes, Kaleb came up to me with three cars in his hands and an anxious look in his eyes. “Dad,” he said, “I like these.”
A dollar each. Three dollars total. But I’d said–and he’d agreed–we’d get only one. “Pick one,” I replied. His eyes darkened.
He set the three cars on some empty shelf space. In a few seconds, he took one car and placed it aside. Two cars. Two dollars. It’s only an extra dollar, right? He stared at each car. Then again. I noticed I was holding my breath. I tried to relax. He leaned over a little, looking even more closely at the cars. Now my heart was pounding. It’s only two dollars. Two dollars! I waited. My heart pounded out the seconds.
Suddenly Kaleb hunched over, his body a tight fist in struggle. He was trying so hard… I forced myself to wait and to my surprise, I was fighting back tears. Why am I doing this to him? It’s only a dollar!
Then, like water, he straightened up and looked at me with a beautiful smile of happiness. With no hesitation, he held up one car and said, “This one!” Before I could reply, he took the other two and put them back. Gave me time to wipe my eyes.
We walked to the checkout, my hand on his shoulder as he looked at the car. His car. The one he had chosen when choosing was not the easiest path.
I’m not sure if Kaleb remembers this incident, for although children (especially him) have a remarkable memory for key moments, what happened that day was more remarkable to me than to him. I was trying to teach him about the power of choice, and yet I ended up learning so much more: about him and his wondrous qualities and about me and the love I feel for my son. For you see, I could have done the easy thing and chosen to buy both cars. It would have only taken another dollar. But I loved him enough not to, even though it caused me pain. So we both learned more about the power of choice.
Not all our decisions as parents have that trade-off, but isn’t it wonderful when we get them right, when we choose the path that empowers?
Photo by wriccobene