I was nine or ten years old; he was three years younger. We had moved from our rural home in Missouri to Washington, Illinois. Like most children, I knew that parents needed an occasional manipulation in order to get the answer children desire. Therefore, I was not pleased when my little brother, too young to be trusted to speak for us, blurted out that we wanted a monkey.
Normally this approach did not work well, but our dad didn’t say no. Instead he walked to the kitchen, found a small empty, metal coffee can and walked back to the living room where we waited, confused by his silence.
“We can have a monkey if you save up for it,” Dad said. “You can put in part or all of your allowances until we have enough money to buy one. As you add money to the can, I’ll add some, too.” With that, Dad pulled his wallet from his back pocket and dropped the first dollar bill into the can.I know that I had to be grinning from the inside out because I was happy to save for a monkey. I ran to my purse, got out some change and dropped it in. I knew I wouldn’t be able to buy as much nail polish and lip balm as I normally did with my allowance, but that was okay.
As time went by, our childlike commitment waned on the monkey project with contributions dropping to nothing. Good thing, too. What in the world would we have done with a monkey?Through the years, I’ve thought about the monkey project. I’ve even used it on my own children, from time to time. Instead of saying a flat out “no”, a wise parent supports the ideas and dreams of a child with encouragement and guidance and helping them commit to whatever to that dream means to them.
It was a good lesson.