My boy has always been generous with his friends. Their wish his command. So a child expresses an interest in his toy and he’ll hand it over and not just for the duration of the play date. “ You like it? Have it. Take it home”, he’ll urge. He hasn’t given the shirt off his back yet but that’s only because it wouldn’t hold much truck with 7 year olds. Right now Match Attax cards are the modus operandi for young boys.
I get to hear about his losses from his vigilant sister who knows her younger brother’s tendencies well. Sometimes he’ll pay heed and she’ll thwart a transaction. Last week she managed to get him to revoke a “swap” involving his precious (and expensive) Lord Voldemort wand. He’s not massively in to Harry Potter but give it a year or so as his reading improves, like most 8-year-old boys he’ll immerse himself in the ways of the wizard, rummage through the bottom of his toy box for his cape and spectacles (if he hasn’t already given them away). His visiting friend has the benefit of older brothers and hits these milestones first, already displaying signs of HP mania. My boy was prepared to let it go for a foil bag of Match Attax (rrp £1 from most retail outlets) but for his sister’s intervention.
When we are at school fetes he’ll ask for extra money,invariably to sub another child. It’s not necessarily about paying cash either. The boy is big on paying compliments. I’ve driven to parties with pals of his in the back seat and what if he isn’t promising his friends something (at the moment it’s an invite to his next birthday party) he’s complementing them on their sporting prowess or their ranking in the classroom.
Today I heard them reciting their lines in the year 3 assembly. The other boy has double my sons but wishes he had more. Seemingly so does my boy “I wish I could give you my lines so you’d have more,” I hear him say.
An older boy who rides with us from our school is humoured daily. Previously mates, the four year age gap is having an impact now. He has no patience for my boy anymore. Flattered once, irritated now. So when my son says he too is a Chelsea supporter and is going to join the local football club on Saturdays he’s told to stop copying. And he does! He tells me he’s not bothered about his weekend training sessions and Man U are his team henceforth. It almost makes me weep.
Last week on the eve of his first confession when we popped in to the local supermarket my boy asked if we could buy something for our priest. Like what I asked? Maybe a bottle of wine to take in to the confessional my boy suggested. Needless to say we didn’t.
He was so happy to find himself with a Match Attax special edition gold card. He had it for all of a week. Yesterday he swapped it with the boy with the older brothers who we had around after school. I noticed his friend looked glum as I drove them home. He was silent and drawing sad faces in the condensation on the window. His sadness due to my boy resisting his swap. Half an hour back in the house my daughter comes to me upset. Her brother has swapped his precious card. I pull him aside. He tells me he wanted the swap. That his friend is now talking to him and more importantly he’s happy and that in turn makes my boy happy. He does regret it later but maybe that’s because myself and my daughter “kept going on about it”. If we hadn’t brought it up again it’s unlikely he wouldn’t. I started to talk about friendship. I tell him he’s enough of a draw because of his lovely nature and that he doesn’t need to dismantle his toy cupboard to gain friends. He doesn’t want to hear it, becomes angry and starts to cry. I’m not comfortable with my boys generosity. Where does it end. Will he be a soft target for extortion when he’s older. Does he not value himself enough. Do we not? Am I seeing myself reflected in his action? I am a people pleaser too and that trait has not served me well.
My son is sensitive to others feelings and wants to see people happy. That’s admirable. But there’s more going on here. I havn’t figured it out yet but like his sister I will stay vigilant. And I’ll remember to praise my boy, frequently, and not with another packet of Match Attax but with a simple well done or a hug. As I reflect on my own self-worth. The sins of the fathers and all that jazz…