When I was about 4 years old, my family decided to teach me an important lesson.
See, we were at some store one night (I think it may have been Service Merchandise) when I saw The One Toy I Wanted More Than Anything In The World (or that week’s version, anyway): The Mego Pocket Super Hero Batmobile, the one that actually came with Batman and Robin figures (go here and scroll down the page a bit if you don't know what I'm talking about). I begged, I pleaded, I probably threw myself on the ground and cried, but no dice; it was $10, and my parents were not spending that much on a toy when it wasn’t even Christmas or my birthday.
I told my older sister about it the next day, and seeing as she was (and still is) one of the coolest people ever, she concocted a plan to help make my little pre-school dreams come true. If I was an extra good boy and kept my room clean and helped out around the house and all that, she’d give me a dollar a week, and in time, I’d save up the money and be able to buy it myself (see, my sister is about 15 years older than me, and is therefore like my younger, hipper mom, so she had things access to things that blew my mind back then, like money and the car). She ran the idea by my parents, and they loved it. Kid learns valuable lesson, parental duty assumed by a surrogate – it was a win-win situation for them, really.
So for the next 2 months or so, I was pretty much a candidate for sainthood. You’ve never seen a more helpful or well-behaved kid in your life. I was polite, I ate all my vegetables, I helped with the dishes, I even cleaned up my brother’s side of the room (and he was 12 years older than me). And for my Herculean efforts (by a 4 year old’s standards, anyway), I earned the princely sum of $1 a week. On the Friday of week number nine, someone (either my parents, my sister or my next-door neighbor, I don’t know who) figured that I had indeed learned from this whole experience and rewarded me with an extra dollar, allowing me to reach my goal an entire week sooner than anticipated. Needless to say, I was pretty excited, and you better believe we marched right back to that store the moment we finished dinner that night. The Batmobile would be mine at last.
Well, it would’ve been, if they’d actually had it. We looked everywhere, and it was absolutely nowhere to be found. We even had people look out back, but no luck. We eventually found someone who remembered that it was in stock at one point, but that they probably hadn’t carried that particular item in about TWO MONTHS, and he didn’t think they company made it anymore. And so there I was again, throwing myself on the floor in utter despair. The difference this time, though, is that my parents very obviously felt really bad. They carted me off to a few other stores and over to the mall, but no dice. They did help me find another toy I kinda wanted that night, the General Lee car that came with the Bo and Luke action figures (also made by Mego, oddly enough), and it was cool, but it wasn’t nearly the same.
So in the end, my family actually taught me a few lessons with this experience. I learned the value of the dollar, and how important it was to earn things instead of just getting stuff for no real reason, sure. But in addition, I learned that working your ass off won’t always get you what you consider to be your just reward, and life really sucks like that sometimes.
Also, parents who think they’ve messed up are pretty likely to take you out for ice cream later. I probably used that one to my advantage more often than just about anything else I ever learned as a kid.