October | 2013

Lesson No. 43: How 'Bout Them Apples

My 10 year-old son, William, loves all things Apple! I’m talking technology here, not fruit. While William is the happy owner of an iPod, iPad and Macbook, he is forever lured by the buzz of the ‘next best thing’. A favorite outing for him is going to the Apple Store and playing with all the new stuff.

A couple of weeks ago we were at the Apple Store when there was a lot of hype around the new iPhone 5C (the colorful plastic ones). While I was at the Genius Bar getting my computer fixed, William enthusiastically drilled the floor salesman on the unique features of the new Phone. (Mind you, he does not have an iPhone, nor will he anytime soon. But he could tell you everything they do.)

As I was finishing up my appointment, William crept up by my side and asked to go home. This is highly unusual. Normally I have to actually enter into a computer to retrieve him and pull him back when it is time to go home. But on this day, his face was sullen, his energy low, and his posture defeated. I had assumed he was just really over-stimulated by all the technology but walking to the car he said in a serious and quite voice, “Mom, I’m not sure I should come to the Apple Store anymore.”

Astonished I replied, “What? … You love the Apple Store! … What happened?”

“It just makes me feel bad…. Or maybe sad…. Which feels bad.”

Bewildered, I questioned on, “What do you mean?”

“I don’t have all the new stuff. And coming here makes me feel bad because I don’t have it.”

Of course I had to stop myself from flipping out on him and scolding him for disregarding all the ‘stuff’ he does have. I tried to stay calm as I pointed out, “William, you have an IPod… an IPad…and a Macbook…”

“I know,” he sighed. “But they always have new things. And better things. And I feel bad that I don’t have them. I don’t know, it makes me feel like I’m good enough or something. I can’t explain it. It just makes me sad…”

I took a deep breath. Even as I was exasperated that he could not appreciate what he had, I was also actually impressed that he had the insight to understand his frustration. I exerted an unusual level of self-control and calmed my urge to lecture him with the “you should be grateful” speech… (Please be assured this was very hard for me. But I sensed there was something bigger going on here so I paused instead and relaxed more.)

We drove for several minutes in silence before William continued in a relieved and happier voice, “You know mom. When I go to the Apple Store, I get kind of crazy and swept up. I only see what I don’t have. I don’t even remember what I have. It makes me feel bad. I am going to just change my focus. I am going to think about what I have.  That makes me more happy. ”

…phew…

But… Just so you know…that insight lasted all of a few hours and soon William could be heard telling anyone who listened about the new colorful phones and he would love to have one.

My lesson? Savor the moments.

And of course, keep practicing my own gratitude. Keep modeling through living.