I think this is part of being a mom--for the longest time I truly believed that my parents were going to buy me a horse. And not just buy me a horse, but build a fence in our backyard for the horse to live. For years I envisioned a beautiful brown horse with a white nose sleeping in my playhouse, and coming to my window in the morning, where I would lean out and feed it carrots for breakfast and stroke his long muzzle, and then leap from my windowsill and only his broad back so he could take me to school. I imagined how jealous my classmates would be as they climbed off of the boring yellow school bus, and here I'd come galloping up astride my very own horse.
It was my mother who fanned the flames of this fantasy. I distinctly remember discussing with her the possiblility of our getting a horse on several occasions.
Me: Mom, can we get a horse?
My Mom: We'll see.
Me (the wheels already spinning) : Could we keep him in the backyard?
My Mom: Maybe. It's big enough for one.
Me: Would we need a barn?
My Mom: Your playhouse is big enough for a horse.
Me: When can we get one?
My Mom: I don't know. I've always wanted a horse.
Me (hardly believing my luck that here, all this time, my mother and I both wanted a horse and now here we were, having an actual discussion about the possibility of getting one. To an eight-year-old girl, that's as good as a yes): Me, too.
Needless to say, I'm still waiting for my mom to make good on that little promise.
But the other day, I found myself having a similar discussion with Rollie. He wasn't asking for anything as elaborate as a hooved animal for a pet, but the intensity of his desire for a Lightning McQueen remote control car was very familiar. As was my response.....
Rollie (as we walk down the toy aisle at Target): Lightning McQueen!
Me: I see him.
Rollie: Can I have him please, Momma?
Me: You don't really need him, baby.
Rollie: He goes super fast!
Me: Yes he does.
Rollie (now removing the Lightning McQueen car from the shelf and walking toward our cart with it): Can I have him, Momma?
Me: Not today, Rollie. Maybe another time.
I know damn well I'm never going to buy this remote control car for my son. A. He has a bajillion cars at home, B. This Lightning McQueen fetish is a phase he is currently at the pinnacle of, and so if I were to wait until say, Christmas to buy this thing, he will play with it for a total of five seconds before either he gets sick of it or it breaks, and C. if I say yes to every impulse buy of his, I'd already be in some serious credit card debt.
But the phrase Not Today...therein lies the problem. Not Today leaves open the possibility of tomorrow, and every other subsequent day from now until he gets a job and can buy his own toys. Not Today leaves a sliver of hope. Not Today's main function is to cut off any tantrum, bout of begging or other such spectacle before it even begins. But Not Today, to a two-year-old, is also as good as a Yes.
Yet I find myself using Not Today or a variation of it in all kinds of situations. If he asks for a trip to the beach and I know I'm not taking him, I say "Maybe." If he wants to watch Cars (again), but if I have to hear Lightning McQueen say "Cka-CHOW" one more time I'm going to stab myself in the ear in the ear with a crazy straw, I say "Not right now." Which of course, to a two-year-old, means "Any time after Now." Which is why he asks again two minutes later. Sigh.
And that's not all I lie about. I tell him the orange scribbles on his paper look exactly like the dinosaur he said he drew. I tell him he did a great job putting his pants on even though they're on backwards and both of his legs are shoved into one pant-leg. I let him believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, that birdies and lizards who cross his path are saying hello to him. It's no wonder kids his age are completely egocentric. It's parents like me who perpetuate that attitude.
But in all fairness, I understand why we do it. Why we lie. I understand that we do it to keep our children happy, to protect them from some of the ugly truths in life. They have plenty of time to figure it out without us telling them they suck at getting dressed or can't draw for crap.
I am, however, still waiting for my pet horse....