When I was a small boy, perhaps five, my father told me that some day he was going to give me his old camera. It was, even by the standards of the 1960s, an antique. It had a square fabric telescopic lens. Like a pyramid. Anyway, I bugged him, perhaps for days, to give it to me. He told me no, because he did not want me to break it. Like any kid, I promised and promised that I would not. Finally, one day he relented. I was in awe of the thing, but also of the anger he might unleash on me if I broke it. So I intended to merely hold it and regard it. My sister, three years older, had another plan. She approached me while I sat on the steps in the garage and wanted to explore it. I kept telling her not to do this and not to do that. She took it from me. Talking rapidly, she drowned out my objections to her opening it a certain way. Then she said "Now it doesn't close," and handed it back. My father, who must have been eavesdropping behind us, instantly appeared and declaimed "Now you've broken it!" Then he put it on top of the trash in the garbage can and left the garage. It looked perfectly fine to me, and as I stared at it, I wondered if it might be repaired. But he seemed so sure, so I said nothing. I checked on it a few hours later, and it was still there in the garbage. I knew my sister was evil, but I didn't have the mental capacity to know that she had planned on helping me break it, in order to earn me condemnation. It was only more than thirty years later, when my father spoke of his plan to give me that same camera, that I realized my notoriously thrifty father had only pretended to throw it in the trash, and had in fact retrieved it later.
- If you plan a surprise for a kid later, don't tell them about it now.
- As a parent, when you say no, stick to it.
- Don't invent dramas to prove to your kids that they are bad.
- Speak up.