“$108 cash or $150 store credit?”
“What would you like, cash or credit?” The clerk asked him again, this time looking to me for an answer that I wasn’t going to give.
Noah started twitching his leg and biting his lip. “What should I do, Mom?” His eyes scanned the store looking for something that would make his decision easier.
“Not my choice. But we can’t stay here all day,” was all I offered him as guidance. After 40 minutes I was reaching my stand-around limit.
Truth be told, I really don’t like going into the video game store. This one has DVDs and some fan gear for shows I watch which makes it tolerable, but I never come here voluntarily. To me games and systems are like a foreign language that I took in high school: I know the basics but drop me in their native land and I can’t get any farther than the bathroom.
I have become one of those parents who asks my kid, “Is this appropriate for you?”
(I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.)
Noah had been building his collection of no-longer played games and devices all year. Some he had gotten replacements for from generous grandparents; others he was too far down the Tween path that he lost sight of their appeal. The box was pretty full.
He made the decision that he was ready to part with the stuff.
He made the decision where to part with it.
He made the decision to ask me nicely to take him, understand the two times that I said I would but something came up, and ask nicely again.
He made the decision to add, “Take Noah to Vintage Stock” to both my phone memos and as a calendar entry.
He had made a lot of decisions to get to the point when he had to decide between cash or credit — but he stalled out with that one.
I asked him the question that I had been asking him in as many ways as I could since he began the trade-in plan: “Is there something that you were hoping to get?”
Every other time he had shrugged his shoulders, but this time he nodded.
“Do they have it here?”
He shook his head.
“Cash or store credit?” I asked. The clerk standing at the counter more patient that I was. Maybe he saw boys like this every day. More likely he was a little boy not that long ago and knew how hard making a decision like this is.
“Cash, please.” Noah finally said.
The angel choir in my head sang.
Later that day when Noah was flashing his bounty and trying to decide how much to put in the bank and how much to stuff in his pocket, Luke wondered where his little brother had gotten cash. I explained.
Luke shook his head in disbelief. “I wish that the hardest choice I had to make was cash or credit. My gosh! How hard could it be?”
“Hard,” I told him. “Decision making is a collective skill. You have to work up to the advanced ones like where to go to college, how to pay your bills, who to marry…but each stage along the way feels equally hard. Some decisions will be easy but it’s unfair and belittling to suggest to someone that because their tough choices aren’t tough to you they must not be hard.
To him it’s hard. That’s all you need to know.”
A 16 year-old boy shrugging his shoulders: apathy or understanding?
I choose the latter.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.