Updated: January 27, 2014 12:31PM
The boy set us up good.
My wife and I sat in my office at home talking one evening when our son, 11, appeared at the door, bearing gifts a week before Christmas.
“Here Mom and Dad,” he said, handing each of us a booklet bound with Scotch tape.
“Aw-w-w-w-w . . . This is so-o-o-o nice,” his mother said of the homemade Christmas cards he created on the computer, complete with a color photo of Homer Simpson. Our son basked in the glow of his mother’s adoration.
“Hey boy,” I interrupted in my best Bernie Mac voice. “Don’t be using all my printer ink!”
My wife shot me a look that said, “Hey, big dummy, whatcha doin’?”
“Yeah, uh, this is nice,” I said. “Thanks, son.”
I flipped through the pages. Hmmm, this is thoughtful, creative. . . . I should be ashamed of myself, I thought. What a swell kid. Big dummy. Shame on me, America.
Then we went upstairs. I should have known that boy was up to no good!
There was the proof — nestled on our pillow, handwritten in pencil: His Christmas list.
“I knew it, I knew it,” I said in my B Mac voice again. “He was just setting us up. . . . Will you look a here?”
“Dear Mom and Dad, this is my Christmas list: Either a PS3 or PS4 for the whole family . . . ”
“For the whole family, yeah right, uh-huh . . . ” I said, my words dripping with sarcasm.
“ . . . Either a Kindle Fire HDX or either Dad’s old phone (Samsung Galaxy Note)… PS — If you get the PS3, can you please, please get the game Naruto Generations with it.”
At least he had said please.
“He should have asked Santa to bring him a job,” I quipped.
We laughed. I had to admit that I admire the boy’s strategy.
Even more, I admire his heart. He’s a really good kid. He gets good grades, plays the sax. He’s the kind of kid who makes a father want to give him the world. Except I know that would not be good for him.
That’s not the message these days in a high-tech, highly commercialized world that says that unless you’re keeping up with the digital-age Joneses, you’re somehow deprived. A world that promotes excess over moderation and also the idea that we can somehow buy our way to happiness.
It’s easy to get the sense these days that we are sometimes guilty of giving our kids too much. I worry about striking a balance. And I am reminded that in trying to give our kids what we didn’t have growing up on the other side of the tracks, we sometimes have failed to give them the things we did have.
Things like values, love, respect. Gifts that never lose their luster. The kind of gifts that stand the test of time.
I had that in my mind when finally I settled on my gift to my son. Shiny and new. Something to wrap his fingers — and mind — around. Something to grow into and maybe carry for the rest of his days: a guitar. We also bought him a new video game.
After all, I’m not a Scrooge.
And after all, I don’t mind him playing some video games — sometime. But in my Bernie Mac voice, “That boy gon’ play some guitar, America. Much as I paid, oh, the boy gon’ play.”