Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Silly Bandz, Rainbow Fish, and My Son

My 7 year old son's first exposure to a school crazed fad: 

 I think it was about last week my son started really talking about Silly Bandz.  "Mom, I feel left out. Everyone has silly bandz at school.  I really want some; can we go buy some."  It was then that I had a little conversation with him about fads--how they come and go, and everyone goes crazy about one thing and then it passes when the next fad comes along.  I think for me, it was Garfield, then Michael Jackson, then Cabbage Patch Kids. 

This past Sunday, he decided to use his allowance money to buy himself his first Silly Bandz.  He was ecstatic about them and wore so many on his wrist, I was afraid his blood circulation would stop.  He gave some to his sister and even a heart one for me, and I think a Dino for Mike.  He played with them, he admired them, he organized them.  He was on cloud nine. 

Yesterday, he brought them to school, following the rules and only bringing them out for recess and snack time.  I was there at the beginning part of that, helping out in his classroom and saw the first signs of it..  The first couple of them, he received trades for, but then some of them he simply gave away with promises from a couple of kids that they would bring in a trade the next day. 

The hard part came when I picked him up from school and he took inventory of how many he had left.  He realized that he probably wouldn't get "trades" for most of the ones he gave away..and suddenly he realized that his prized collection was mostly depleted..He started talking about how some kids promised to be his friend, how others promised trades, how some kids broke the first one he gave them, and asked for a second one.  Then came the tears, the loss, and the anger.  For about the first hour, I tried to console him, and talk about what he learned from it..Told him I was proud of his generosity and that he made some kids pretty happy, I bet, but also to pay attention to how many he had meant to give away--and to not fall for the "I'll be your friend" line.  This conversation would have been fine, but my son has a way of not being consoled until he has cycled through the trauma, I guess..  He tends to continue to escalate with his feelings and this time he completely melted down-screaming, throwing things, the whole gamut.  Then I find myself, not able to be the compassionate listener anymore and getting harder on him.."It is time to move on..and not wallow in it--because with him, it tends to escalate"..  The episode lasted at least 3 hours, and I finally had to have him sit in a "calm down chair"--to keep him "safe".  His sister tried to help. she gave him a hug, and also  gave him back the silly bandz he had given her..The gesture helped. She did it at the right moment as he was becoming ready to move out of it.  Phew..

Since then, I have been thinking about the learning opportunity here.  Through this, we now have a reference point of how it feels to be taken advantage of--when it might be time to set a limit with other people and be able to say "NO"--  He experienced peer pressure...  On the flip side, he also experienced being generous, and I'm sure felt good at times at the joy it gave to his classmates.  He experienced the "emptying" out--and truly giving at a very generous level--without the holding back--most of us might have.. 

There is this book called the Rainbow Fish-A fish, who basked in his beautiful fins and kept them all to himself..but he was lonely and isolated.  Later, he decided to give away just one fin--but then was able to give away more and more until he only had one left.  It was only then, that he experienced joy and friendship.  There is another children's story, The Quiltmakers Gift, about a king who collected gifts, but was always searching for the one gift that would make him happy(because he was very unhappy despite all that he owned)--It wasn't until he wanted a quilt from the quiltmaker, and she told him to give away the rest of his gifts so he could have a quilt, that he found happiness..such joy in the giving away..not just a few things, but everything.
In the Baha'i Faith, we often look to the son of the Founder of our Faith for examples of how to live as a Baha'i..  Abdu'l-Baha' was known as "a candle who would weep his life away drop by drop to give his flame"--He was not generous as a token, he was generous to his core--to the point that he would not even have a bed to sleep in because he gave it away. 

Tristan was generous to the extent of emptying himself of what he treasured..but he also experienced the "fire" of agony at the loss of it--the consequence of what he did.. Perhaps a purifying fire (from this perspective).. 

So, there are many ways of looking at this---The importance of being assertive and not being taken advantage of or giving into peer pressure.  And, the true spirit of generosity without self-preservation.  What is the balance??  I don't have that answer.  I'm trying to figure it out for myself..  I can't give that answer to Tristan..but I think it is a good thing to think about..  On the one hand, I don't want him to be easily manipulated--and if the giving was because he was manipulated into it--than that is not good..  But if the giving was because he wanted to bring others joy--that is good, I think..  Also, like the rainbow fish, I think he liked his silly bandz because it gave him status--made him feel important, and when he gave them away, he also gave away the "status" that those bandz had given him.  The status evaporated--and I think he may have been crying about that too-- 

So, many aspects to this to process for him (and for us as a family!!)

Another book that is relevant to this is
You are Mine:  About puppets who think that their value comes from the toys they own: boxes and balls--and one puppet sells his home so he can try to have more boxes and balls than anyone(but still there are others who always have more-who are better Wemmicks)..until he finds the puppet maker who lets him know that what makes him special is not his toys... (The Baha'i perspective is that what makes us special is our spiritual reality--and our ability to rise above these material things, this material world-transcend and develop spiritual qualities-virtues)  such as generosity

A friend from the east coast facebooked me, telling me that she had just bought some silly bandz and wanted to mail them to my son to let him know that generosity can be returned..that it often is..  Really touched by this gesture..  So much better coming from someone from afar who cares--better than it would be coming from us.  There is something mystical sometimes about the "emptying out" --and what can end up filling that space can often be something so much more precious..such as the kind gesture of someone who has never even met him.  The bandz are not important, but that gesture is--and the feeling I think it gave to him when I told him this morning that someone he didn't even know cares about him..

What do you think????? 


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