31 January 2005

Single...With Children: All You Need Is Love

Zeal overpowers important lesson

Single with Children

Susie Parker
Publication Date: 04/14/04

Have you ever met a parent curiously determined to anticipate her child's desires, regardless of the kid's age and having nothing whatsoever to do with some horrific tantrum?

I've always wondered what in the world motivates these obnoxiously generous parents to painstakingly fulfill their offsprings' every wish and dream.

But, no question about it: I've got to plead guilty to this one.

A couple of weekends ago my daughter moved into a larger apartment intending to find a roommate to help pay for all the extra square-footage. Two things popped into my head the first time I saw her new digs: "I'm jealous," and "We've got to fill up all this extra space!"

One day last week, my daughter suggested we go out to eat and then visit some stores so she could get "a few things." Unfortunately, the dinner only energized me, and my mind was already rearranging furniture she didn't yet have and accessories that will no doubt, in a few weeks, become annoying clutter.

I thought I held on pretty well as we looked at items for the dining room, living room and bedrooms and then it happened. Kitchen ware - my personal Achilles heel. I harbor no illusions that I will ever be remembered for my culinary skills, but that doesn't prevent me from being awed by a well-equipped kitchen. Whatever common sense I was in possession of made a quick exit as we entered shelves of cookware, utensils, crock pots, can openers and electric ice cream machines. Yes, even ice cream machines weren't safe from my grasp. I mean, what kitchen is complete without an electric ice cream machine?

It was at this point that my daughter expressed her concern that I was totally out of control. An ice cream maker? To my credit, it had been marked down.

I almost fainted at the total the checkout clerk rang up and quickly thought of things I could do without this month and, well, next month, too. Fortunately, I didn't have long to dwell on the bill. As we unloaded Katie's over-packed Neon, at about 2 a.m., it dawned on us that we would have to carry all of this stuff up about 25 steps to the second floor. By about the 10th trip, the cost of the shopping spree had been nudged from my mind by the more pressing concern of taking in more oxygen.

At this point, in the middle of the middle of the night, Katie asked me to just stay over and go home in the morning, because it was too late to be on the road. I quickly agreed and, in about five minutes, she collapsed on her bed and was asleep.

Feeling my vital signs return to a more reasonable level, I somehow recovered a second wind and began unpacking. By eight o'clock that morning I had run four loads in the dishwasher and hand-washed what wouldn't fit. The shelves were now packed and the refrigerator was bulging, which was fortunate because it would be many weeks before either of us can afford to go out and eat.

On a more serious note, though my intentions were good, I shortchanged my daughter out of learning a lot of things you can't buy, even from Wal-Mart. One of the most important is the sense of satisfaction in saving for and purchasing something you really want. I'm ashamed to admit I robbed her of that feeling.

The fault doesn't lie with my daughter. Honestly, she didn't ask me for any of what I felt was essential. I think she even slipped a few things back on the shelf as I perused some other silly gadget I was sure she would need.

So I've restricted myself from buying nonessential items for my daughter for at least the next six months.

We've both agreed there's going to have to be something close to an emergency if I find myself buying something I think she needs. From here on out, I'm going to try to allow her the chance to learn the lessons of being an independent adult.

In the process, I hope to will learn the lesson of stepping back so she can move forward.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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