I should know better.
Fresh off the letter I wrote to my daughter the other day, and thinking about the person she became this year, I decided to surprise her with American Idol tour tickets. We hadn’t planned to go this year, but then I thought, what the heck, she deserves it (and how many concerts can you take a 10-year-old to these days?). So, I bought tickets. Three bills, including parking and ticket insurance.
When my daughter came home from school, I let her know we had a surprise for her and would reveal it during dinner. She asked for two guesses. Clothing? No. My little pony? No.
Off she went to guitar and singing lessons where she told both instructors about the coming surprise of surprises. I don’t think I made it out to be that big. But once again I underestimated the mind of a 10-year-old and the things she can dream up in a section of her brain called, “Cave of Super Cool Surprises.” Evidently it’s quite a spectacular place. No adults allowed.
“All she talked about in the car was the surprise,” my wife said.
Still optimistic, delusional, and blind, I sat down at dinner and started telling my only daughter how we thought she really grew this year. My wife added some nice words and we both realized none of it was sinking in. We were the adults in the Charlie Brown holiday special, “wa wa wa, wa, wa wa,” speaking unintelligible words to a child.
I handed her the piece of paper with the concert information on it.
Then the parenting gods sent in The Clown. And he delivered a large pie to my face. Smash. Cream filling up my nose. “You should have seen that coming,” the Gods said.
Disappointment on my daughter’s face. I never learn.
She was polite, but we could tell she had something else in mind.
“What were you hoping for?” we asked.
After 30 seconds of not wanting to say it: “an iPhone.”
Send in another clown. Smack, brick to the face. Is that my blood dripping in my pasta?
An iPhone? Hello, left field, are you kidding me with that one?
Oh, yeah, she’s 10. It came from the “surprise” cave in her mind.
And then we had the painful “gee, we sound like parents” conversation about how she didn’t need an iPhone.
“Who would you call?” Silence. “You can use your mother’s iPhone.” Silence. Clearly, she’s a government agent and needs her privacy. Can the government not afford the cost of iPhones for their agents?
I ate my dinner and we talked about the upcoming concert. Once again, I felt like a chump. And my wife salted the wound by reminding me of the bike at Christmas (see post in Dec 2011) and the pain of that unwanted gift.
Lesson learned: Never surprise a child with anything other than the exact gift they want. (In other words, don’t surprise them.) Otherwise, the parenting gods will serve up a harsh lesson delivered by an imaginary clown.
But it will feel like the real thing.
I would do the exact same thing as your daughter when there I was told there was a surprise coming. Your post on this makes me squirm a little because I relate to her so much. Because of this, I’ve never warned my kids ahead of time of an impending surprise. I just give it to them. The fact that they didn’t know it was coming still makes it a huge surprise and they are thrilled. Since they didn’t have time to create crazy expectations, they’ve almost always loved them. Can’t do that with birthdays and the holidays though. But then, I’m one of those who just asks what they want and let them know up front if it’s not possible. All this managing of expectations can get me in trouble too sometimes.
Well, I guess I’m glad we’re not raising our daughter and you at the same time. I might go crazy. 🙂
You’re right about the expectations. Don’t give them time to create them. I should have know that. Won’t do it again – until you read the blog post about me doing it again. In fact, I’m never using the word “surprise” again with my daughter. I get a beating each time I do.
Can’t imagine you being in trouble with the kids to much. Well, I guess I can after all. Happens to all of us.
Dear Madman of DumbassShire,
When I read this post I found myself slapping my hands to my face and shaking my head! Elementary mistake my dear Watson!
I will give you a piece of advice for nothing my friend, when booking concerts for young daughters make sure they are for the boy band of the moment, case in mind I recently booked for Robyn to go and see One Direction. This formula has also worked for Lauren & Beth and that is the secret revealed. 😉
I hope you find this advise helpful my friend and just one question, when’s the iPhone coming?
Sir Sean of the super-parenting club,
Are you really that surprised when I do these things?
No boy bands. I shall not buy tickets for a concert that I, myself, cannot sit through.
Very funny about the iPhone. It’s coming between now and never. I got one for my wife, which was a huge hit and she loves it, but somehow the bill keeps creeping up each month. She uses it like oxygen now, and it’s costing over 100 bucks a month to feed her habit and Apple’s stockholders.
School Boy Error. I suggest an iPod touch next time big pressies are in order. Still, she’ll have fun on the night, and then you will see you did a good thing!
Nobody can f@!k you up as much as your own children – but be happy in the knowledge you are returning the favour!
Well said. Very true about our own children and how they screw us up like no others. Agree. Like having a living, walking, talking Rubik’s cube in the house every day.
Ouch. In today’s world managing expectations seems almost impossible. The last surprise we pulled was on my 14 year old niece – telling her the night before the concert that she was going to a Katy Perry concert. That went well, fortunately.
For what it’s worth I think what you did was great – and one day your daughter will see it that way too.
Agree about today’s world making it harder. And yes, Katy Perry for a 14-YO is probably always going to be a win.
Thanks for the agreement. I think she’ll have a great time. She did last year when we got there. The other mistake I made with the surprise element was the concert was not something immediate, something she could hold in her hands and play with immediately. She certainly expected that to be part of the surprise.
Thanks for reading the post and the comment. Much appreciated.
I’ve definitely learned the hard way with this. I’ve found that now I build my daughter up for whatever it is she will be getting. For ex. Her 8th Bday, I just kept telling her wow, you could really use a new bike…although then there is ultimately no surprise. Little girls, I wonder often what to do with her. Good luck!
I hope I got your first name correct. Thank you for reading the post and the reply. Much appreciated. Sounds like you’re two years behind my daughter. I like your technique. It’s a good one, and I may use it. I have a feeling I’ll still feel like a chump somehow. 🙂
Best to you,
Ahhh… and no matter how many moments of adoring behavior they exhibit, the reality is kids are still kids! Growing up and learning etiquette (amongst so many other things) are a pain in the ass… for the parents.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the post and all these comments. How have I lived these last few months without my UC fix? Seriously.
By the way, i think the tickets were a great parenting idea. I would not have foreseen the disappointment drama. I am trying to learn what to do/not do for the future with my high-maintenance drama nearly 4 year old girl. Clearly, I need to just write your reader Margie in advance of all my parenting questions and she can shed light on the situtation. 🙂
Yes, write Margie for advice and use my blog for what not to do. That’s a good strategy. BTW, 4 is a great age. You’ll miss it big time.