It was a total set-up.
I was almost out the door. I was almost free.
And just as my hand hit the door knob he flies around the corner…
“DAD! Where are you going? Can I come with you?”
The face was innocent. The request sweet. It came with a smile and a look that made answering with anything less than, “Sure, buddy…let’s go”, an absolute impossibility.
Little did I know that I was about to be father-napped. What, you haven’t heard of that? It happens when you least expect it. It sneaks up on you in an instant. And just when you are sure you have snuffed one of these moments out before they happen? Turns out those kids were just trying to be nice.
Father-napping is a condition otherwise known as “I got him where I want him, now I am going for his wallet”. It’s similar to “Dad, can I borrow some money”…but it’s more in-direct. Those little critters play on your emotions. They take you for a ride down “You’d be a lousy father if you said no-lane” and conveniently leave out the detail that it’s a one-way street.
But (cue a really motivating film score with trumpets blasting)…here is how I avoided being taken hostage.
He wanted an online game that came at the “low, low cost of $8 a month”.
So I flipped the script. I was smart enough to see this as a really cool moment for father and son.
It was totally a teachable moment. (That, and I wasn’t spending $8 a month on a game he’d forget the password to by Tuesday)
We stopped at Starbucks, got our negotiation beverages, and squared off.
He wanted $8 a month. What he needed? To learn where that $8 came from, and how we position our life to matter more, everyday, than a simple game we want to buy.
Here was my pitch.
Allowance = $3 a week (we are in steep negotiations about a raise as another school year starts. That’s a post for another day!)
Tithe = 10%
Savings = 10%
Bless someone else = 10%
That leaves 70%.
A typical month has 4 weeks.
That puts $12 in his pocket.
After the 30%, he has $8.40.
After Club Penguin at $8 a month?
He has a whopping 0.40 cents to spend for the rest of the month.
His eyes got larger.
But…the lesson was we have to start from a perspective of our hearts getting larger.
Sometimes as a dad I reach for the “no”,
when I need to slow down and reach for the “know”.
When he KNOWS why we do what we do with our finances, and the heart behind it…he won’t ever have to worry about living outside his means. He will crave generosity. His first thoughts will be the heart for others.
And…he will realize that trying to father-nap the bald guy he lives with is an exercise in futility.
Bald guy wins…every time.
Not “because I said so”.
SO THAT…he can truly know.
Generosity. Serving others. Honor.
And that’s how we, as fathers (word has it that this works for mothers too), avoid being “father-napped”.
Bonus tip: It’s easier to say no to Club Penguin for $8 a month when you put a $4 strawberry smoothie in his hand while you break the news. Just Sayin’.