My oldest son is a major music lover. He loves to dance, loves to sing, and most of all loves playing musical instruments. When he was two, a friend of mine let my son strum his guitar, and just like that my little boy was hooked. All I heard about was guitars and how badly he wanted one. He got his wish that Christmas; his very own red plastic guitar, complete with Lightning McQueen on the front.
Last month my son turned three, and guess what he wanted for his birthday? That’s right, another guitar, only this time he wanted a “big kid” guitar. His grandparents obliged and bought him a kid’s six-string acoustic in his favorite color: blue. To say he was thrilled would be an understatement. He was absolutely elated.
The following week was music week at his preschool. On Friday the kids had a big concert, and they were invited to bring their own instrument to play. We packed up the new blue guitar and brought it to school, and my son seemed excited to play for his friends.
However, when it was time for the concert, my son’s demeanor changed. He was in one of those toddler funks, upset for no reason and pouting up a storm. My son informed me that he was not playing in the concert and didn’t even like guitars. When I asked him to reconsider, he yelled “NO!” and threw his guitar on the ground. The hard tile ground. I heard a loud snap and thought, “That can’t be good.”
The neck of the guitar was broken completely in two. The strings that had once been stretched tight were now loose and floppy. In true rock and roll fashion, my son had smashed his guitar. His brand new, week-old birthday present was in pieces on the ground. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream.
After I calmed down, my son and I had a discussion about the guitar. He said, “Mommy, you fix it for me!” I explained to him that there was no way the guitar could be fixed. He came back with, “Mommy, you can buy me another one!” Ha! Not happening. I told my son that his guitar was broken because he didn’t use it the way it was supposed to be used. He wasn’t careful with his guitar, and because of that it was broken beyond repair. I told him I would not be buying him another guitar because of the way he treated this one.
I decided against punishing my son for breaking his guitar. I felt that the broken guitar was punishment enough. I did make him call his grandparents to tell them what happened and apologize to them for not treating his guitar with care. And I told him if he wanted a new guitar, he would have to save up his money in his piggy bank and buy it himself. He wasn’t thrilled with that idea, but he seemed to understand that he had made a mistake, and that he would have to be the one to correct it.
While I’m certainly not happy my son went all Pete Townsend on his new toy, I’m kind of glad he’s had this experience. He’s learned a hard lesson about what happens when you don’t take care of your things. He’s also learned that mom isn’t always going to fix everything for him. Deep stuff for three years old. A very big part of me feels sorry for him; he had no idea that his guitar would break when he threw it on the ground. More than once I’ve been tempted to go out and buy him another guitar. But then I remember a little girl who left her bike in the driveway despite her father’s repeated warnings to put it in the garage. When dad hit her bike with his car, the little girl didn’t get a new bike. She rode a broken bike until she could afford to buy herself a new one. That lesson has stuck with me for over 30 years. Hopefully my oldest will be thankful for this lesson one day, just as I am thankful for the hard lesson my dad taught me.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve had to teach your child? Let me know in the comments.
Image: Crystal Paschal