Of Prime Lessons from Optimus

The first time I heard about Optimus Prime was from a little kid I didn’t know. My aunt was pregnant with twins, and apparently the kid had suggested the babies be named Bumblebee and Optimus Prime.

Fortunately, better names were planned for them.

Flash forward a few Cybertronian years later, and good old OP is back in my life, courtesy of my own son. I have to admit, the Transformer toys are pretty cool and I would rather watch Rescue Bots than just about any other kid show out there.

This Christmas we kept it pretty simple gift-wise, but we did get our first Transformer toys, the foursome of Heatwave, Chase, Blades and Boulder. (Robots that convert/transform into a fire truck, police car, helicopter and bulldozer, respectively.) These are seriously the neatest toys, and have probably been played with every day since they were opened.

Well, by now it’s become apparent that Optimus was the next to add to the team. Since our little man had some birthday and Christmas money burning a hole in his little four year old pocket, it seemed convenient to make a trip to the toy store after his drs appt this morning. After all, shots suck no matter what age you are…

So we get through the painful necessaries and find ourselves in the wonderful world of toys. I explained how much money he had and that he therefore he couldn’t buy just anything he laid eyes on. (Ie, no 12v John Deere Gators.) And off we went to find OP, or potentially a jackhammer if that was an option.

“Mommy! I get this?”

I looked down to see him holding a red radio control car with a steering wheel-esque controller, complete with noise buttons. I told him he could put it in the cart and we’d keep looking around, and at the end we’d make our decision. We found Optimus on the next corner, and by the end of the store maze we had also accumulated a neat motorized Tonka garbage truck and a large, die-cast special edition Hot Wheels car.

Now to his credit, my son is very straightforward and as long as things have been adequately explained to him, he does pretty well. He already had it in his head that we were just going to pick one thing, so we didn’t have any fits putting back the other toys we had been pushing around in the cart. So now we’re back down to Optimus and the RC car, and he’s pretty intent on the car.

It was at this point that I found myself in a parenting crisis.

See, the red radio control car did look cool. It was quite large (at least twelve inches long) and I understood the appeal of the steering wheel controller. But knowing how frequently every other car off his has crashed in our house (or down the stairs, or off the deck…) I didn’t have a good feeling about its longevity. Plus I knew how much he plays with his other Transformer toys and how he makes them talk and drive and interact with each other…and this car was very limited in its play possibilities. I don’t even think the doors opened. All I could foresee was fifteen minutes of excited play followed by a clunky toy that would get shoved into his room for a few months before I passed it on to the next unsuspecting youngster.

I was conflicted: do I let him pick his toy for the sake of his own independence? Do I play the mom card and executively decide what he was going to get? Can’t I just tell him what his optimal (pun intended) decision should be?

And suddenly I realized, this will only be the first of many times I would be here. The next time might not be in the toy store aisle, but maybe in the kitchen when he decides to make a car he doesn’t actually have the money for, or when he wants to start a relationship with a girl that I have red flags about.

Fact is, he’s beginning to be able to make independent decisions and I can’t always prevent consequences from poor choices. I can’t teach him how to have a carefree life, I can only try to guide him wisely and gain his respect. Most importantly, I can pray for God to give him a heart that is soft towards God’s voice and firm in its resolve.

So I said to him, “Hey, I know this red car is really cool and you want it. But you remember how much you wanted Optimus Prime? I think you will have lots more fun with this than the car. I’m afraid this car will break easily and then you will be sad.”

I rambled on a bit more, per usual. He looked at me and blinked thoughtfully.

“Otay.”

And that was that. The red car returned to the shelf and Optimus has been thoroughly enjoyed at home all afternoon.

All we can do is guide and pray for the best. (Granted, in their early years there’s a lot more firm guiding, but it has to loosen up as they get older.) Maybe their best isn’t what we think it should be, but we still have to trust that God is still working in the future where we can’t see.

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