I wanted to write about this earlier, but I was afraid that if my kids ever read this, I would be on the unforgiveable list with my name written in red. It's one thing to tell adults that you can't afford to buy something fun and cool. It's another thing to have your kids find out you returned their Christmas present.
Since the beginning of my marriage to Chris, we've had the red-light/green-light system as part of our vocabulary. It's a communication technique that I heard some other couple using where you don't go forward on a big decision unless you both get a 'green light.' Red means forget it. Yellow means you either don't care (and it's the other persons decision) or that discussions need to continue. What I really like about this techniques is that it takes into account your gut feeling on a situation. "I don't know why, I just have a red light right now," keeps communication open instead of, "No, because I said so."
So for Christmas we've been going back and forth about how we should celebrate, and in specific, how much stuff should be under the tree for the kids. We've gone through their Birthdays, garbage bags full hand-me-downs, Halloween, and a couple gift showers so it's not like Christmas will be the first time they've received presents. But we aren't to the Christmas List point yet, they kind of know what they like, but mostly we know because they wear it on their sleeves. If it's pink, Yordi will like it. If it's on TV, Habtamu will watch it.
We have a couple friends with gaming systems, and when we have visited, the wii has been a big hit with both children. So Chris and I figured picking one up for the whole family would a quick way to wrap up the Christmas shopping season. Everyone wanted one... it was a no brainer. So when one of my friends offered to pick one up while he was out shopping, I was all for it. Because the only thing that would possibly be better than getting a wii, was not having to fight the crowds for one. I got the call a couple hours later saying that I could come over and pick up the wii at my earliest convenience, and to bring a check.
Now, I don't even remember how much I thought the wii was going to cost, but when I saw the price tag (and it was a good price) my light went from green to yellow. Several of our friends have wii's so going out to their houses has been an extra special treat. This was just the price of the base unit, let alone the wii-fit, and the second controller, oh and games, probably need a couple of those. How are my children ever going to learn 'social engineering' if they have everything they want? Will they ever use crayons again if there's a gaming system in the house? We can't afford it, we don't need it, and I should have spent the money on new tires. This is rapidly becoming a red light situation. But since Chris was gung-ho about it, I left my light at yellow. A very stale yellow.
I talked to Chris expecting some kind of "If we don't get a wii-fit our children's brains will rot into the couch during the winter months" speech, but I never got it. She just sighed and said that she saw my point but still wanted it. It was in our basement, unopened, I still had 20+ days to return it if I really felt strongly about it.
Then, about a week later, Habtamu ended up with a dollar to spend (whole different story there...) so I took him to our local Dollar Store and said, "Ok, You can buy any one thing here." Long story short, it took him 2 hours to decide on a pocket radio. Two hours of picking things up and putting them back. Shopping, prioritizing, making any form of financial decision was a completely new skill set for him. We came home, and I told Chris that we had grossly underestimated the power of a dollar in our kids lives. Red light. I returned the wii the next week, and prepared myself to someday be seen as The Grinch for the rest of my life when my kids found out. Maybe next year, I thought, but we can do without this year.
Meanwhile, the friend who bought the wii for us had already cashed the check, saw the reimbursement on his credit card, and wrote us a check back. On friday, I was hitching a ride from a workmate to get to the bank, when he nonchalantly says, "Oh, by the way, word got around that you returned the wii. It's down-right heretical work in the computer industry and do that, so to keep you from burning in techno-hell for eternity, we took up a collection. Someone is standing in line right now ready to make the purchase, but we thought we'd check with you first."
I started laughing, "Um... let me call my wife," was the most coherent thing I could think to say.
Suddenly my light turned green and it was like there were a bunch of people I've known for years honking at me to punch the gas and get through the intersection.
There's probably a spiritual lesson to be learned here about the importance of community, generosity, and humility, but I think the real moral of the story is: don't get in the way of computer geeks on a mission, they can change traffic signals.
They are kinda like ambulances with pocket protectors.