“I told you not to let him bring home any more garbage!” I hiss my words through clenched teeth just after our son victoriously holds up the chunk of broken green glass he found while walking with his father on the greenbelt trail near our subdivision.
My husband just gives me that hang-dog look. You know the one? It says without words, “I am so sorry to have disobeyed you, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
And being the patient, loving wife that I am, I glare at him with a shake of my head, then go off on my well-tuned lecture on how to say no.
See, that’s the problem. When B wants something, he makes it very hard for us to say no to what he wants. He digs in his heels and whines, cajoles, and uses all manner of verbal manipulation that would shame even the most polished and best-paid salesmen.
You might call that “stubborn.” But that would not be politically correct. It’s been illegal to describe children in negative terms since the 1990s, don’t you know, so be careful. I think the penalty is a $1,000 fine, a class in which you learn words like “persistent” and “determined”, and a year spent as a school counselor.
Back to B’s “persistence” and “determination.” As a former school teacher, I have no problem saying the words no, don’t, and stop.
My sweet, tender-hearted husband? That’s another story.
Now I want you to understand that when B was a toddler, I was fine with him bringing home his little “treasures.” At that age, the world and everything in it is brand-new and wonderful.
And sometimes, the treasures were toys abandoned by other children who’d been playing in the local suburban park. Without spending any money, we accrued a variety of balls and Frisbees, and once a discarded and broken – but still bodily intact – remote control helicopter.
One parent’s financial irresponsibility is the wealth of another. Thanks to all you anonymous toy donors in north Plano.
But the collection of garbage didn’t stop at the toddler, or even pre-school years. Oh, no. B continued to bring home things like broken glass (hey! talk to J about safety, not me!), rusted wires, and glittery ponytail bands until we moved when he was seven.
You would think that the collecting would stop. After all, pinecones and acorns are everywhere, as are interesting and pretty rocks. Or at least, you would think the collecting would stop now that we’ve lived here for four years. Or now that he’s creeping up on twelve years old.
You would think wrong.
But because he spends most of his time attending YouTube University and exploring the worlds of Minecraft, he hasn’t been bringing in very many found objects from the forest surrounding us. Instead, he’s saved his collecting for the summer, when he can dive for junk at the nearby lake.
“Emily, don’t you think it’s kind of rude to keep calling it ‘junk’ when the stuff is obviously important to your son?”
No, not at all. What’s rude is that you’re interrupting this critically important blog post that has the potential to save millions of lives.
But, because mainstream society requires me to do all the people-pleasing I can *SIGH* – where he can dive for all the treasure at the nearby lake.
And what items abound in the lake? Besides things like used bandages and nicotine patches, I mean.
So of course, B must collect every shell he can find underneath the water.
No matter that he has the equivalent of two medium-sized shipping boxes of clam shells – some in his bedroom, some in the Tuff Shed – that he hasn’t looked at since collecting them a couple of years ago. No matter that he has no real plans for the ones he’s collecting now – and no doubt will forget ever existed in a couple of years.
I said to B the other day at the lake, “You already have too many clam shells that you never even look it!”
As he prepared to suck in a deep breath and hold it before going under the water once again, he looked at me and calmly replied, “There’s no such thing as too many clam shells.”
Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. Maybe I have an archeologist in the making on my hands. Or professional scuba diver. The next Jacques Cousteau?
Or maybe he’s just a kid who likes to collect junk – I mean, treasure.
There’s one good thing about it. The collection is filling up Mr. Can’t-Say-No’s trunk, not mine.