My twelve-year-old son had an iPod Touch at the beginning of the summer. It’s just like an iPhone, except it doesn’t have the phone features. He played games on it, listened to his music, and downloaded crazy apps that made farting sounds. Life was good.
Somehow, it “disappeared” from a public basketball court.
Henry claims it was jacked by some lifeguards when he wasn’t looking.
I’m not convinced that a) lifeguards would steal an iPod Touch or that b) Henry kept a close-enough eye on his treasured possession. However, it was a good lesson about material items — they’re just THINGS. And while I was frustrated he’d “lost” it, I was proud to see him move on: He didn’t cry or rant or even try to justify a replacement. He learned he was ultimately responsible for his things, and that if he wanted another, he’d have to earn the money to get one.
Then, he decided he’d like to get the new, hottest “gadget”: The iPad.
“WHAT?” his father and I asked. ”You’re twelve. What are you going to do with an iPad?”
“Lots of stuff,” Henry replied.
“Like what? Play games? Kind of an expensive gaming device, don’t you think?” we questioned. ”It’s just a bigger version of your iPod Touch.”
“Yeah, but remember, my iPod Touch got stolen.”
“Jacked,” his seven-year-old brother clarified.
“LOST!” his father and I said in unison.
“Whatever,” Henry said. ”The iPad does more than play games,” he said calmly.
“Like???” we asked, exasperated.
“Like listen to my music. Like type a report for school. Like read the newspaper. Like read a book. Like…”
“REALLY???!!!” we laughed. ”Buddy, they’re $500.00. Good luck with that.”
We figured the challenge of raising that kind of dough would wear him down, not to mention the less portable nature of the device (compared to his iPod Touch).
Oh, we were SO wrong.
Every time we’d see a commercial, or go to the mall (where there’s an Apple Store), or talk about savings, or see an iPad, or breathe, Henry would talk about how badly he wanted an iPad.
One day, I walked in to the Apple Store with him (he dragged me in “just to show me” another cool feature).
Thinking I’d uncovered the feature that might dissuade him from liking it, I pointed out, “Henry, it’s got a VIRTUAL keyboard. How in the world will you type PAPERS for SCHOOL with this thing?”
And then, he started typing. Right there in the Apple Store.
FAST. Really, really fast.
I was blown away. I watched his fingers tickle that slick piece of Apple glass and felt our generational gap widen. He and his peers don’t stumble over the touch screens like we 40+ adults do. In fact, he later told me that typing on a regular computer keyboard gives him finger cramps. While I wanted to believe that comment was just a sales pitch for the iPad, I’ve come to realize it’s the truth.
Throughout the summer, I watched him work — without complaint — toward his goal.
He worked for six weeks at a local preschool, playing with children, making new friends, and convincing me to stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts more than once on the way there, “Just to pick up a little something for the staff.”
He sold some of his old video games and gaming equipment.
He constantly asked to do chores. In fact, he asked so many times that I considered paying him to STOP requesting new jobs to do.
When I took our three kids school-clothes shopping, Henry insisted he didn’t want anything.
Every day, he’d count his money. Every day, he’d watch reviews on YouTube and Apple.com about the iPad. And every day, he’d ask “what can I do around here?”
Then, I went to a neighborhood happy hour with our kids (Mike was working). After fifteen minutes, Henry asked if he might go home.
“Aren’t you feeling well?” I asked.
“I’m okay, Mom. Just not feeling up for a party.” He thanked the hosts and walked the two blocks home.
I got home an hour later and found a freshly cleaned kitchen, living room, dining room and entryway. And, a beaming 12-year-old.
“Thanks,” I said, skeptically. ”Looks great.”
“Did you notice your car?” Henry asked.
“No. Why?” I asked, putting down my purse.
“I washed it,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“Really?” I asked, heading toward the front door. My mini-van was parked right in front of the house, on the street. I tilted my head sideways as I noticed the white paint sparkling. ”Wow, Henry, thanks,” I said.
We walked outside so he could show me the results up close. Even from the outside of the car, it smelled fresh.
“Huh,” I said, checking for puddles of water on the ground, but not finding any. ”Wait, did you use the hose?”I asked.
“Nope,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“Well, how DID you wash it?” I asked, confused.
“Paper towels. And 409.”
“Oooohhhhhhhhhh, I see,” I said, taking another deep breath through my nose, wondering if the lemon-fresh scent and anti-bacterial kitchen formula might have already started eating away at the finish on my paint job. ”Thank you so much.”
Much later that evening, after my youngest son was asleep, I told Henry and his ten-year-old sister it was time for bed.
Maggie turned to Henry. “Okay” she said to him,”you can sleep in your room tonight, but tomorrow I take over.”
“You’re taking over Henry’s room?” I asked Maggie.
“Yup,” she said. ”I rented Henry’s room.”
“Really?” I said, turning to Henry.
I believe that moment was the first time Henry went to brush his teeth without my prodding.
“Henry?” I called down the hall. ”What’s going on?”
“Mom,” Maggie explained, “Henry’s renting out his room.”
I just stood there in the hallway.
“Yeah,” Henry said through the bathroom door. ”Just temporarily, though.”
Looking at Maggie, I said, “Seriously? You’re paying Henry? To ‘rent’ his room?”
“Mom,” Maggie said, “It’s for 3 days and two nights. I get to do whatever I want with it while I’m in there. Just as long as I don’t bring my bunny in…because Henry’s allergic.”
“Oh,” I said. ”How considerate.”
Maggie continued, “I’m too tired to move my stuff in tonight. But tomorrow, I take over. I’m gonna ‘Maggify’ it. I can’t wait!”
“How much is Henry charging you?” I asked, bracing myself for a horrifying figure.
“Ten dollars. And it’s okay, Mom, because I know he’s saving for an iPad.”
Henry came out of the bathroom and gave me a sheepish grin. ”I offered seven days and six nights for twenty bucks,” Henry said, “but she caved. I’ll just take what I can get.”
Earlier that day, Henry somehow convinced his younger brother to do unsolicited chores, as well. Nate sprayed the basement with Lysol, rearranged the trophies on the mantel, fluffed pillows, and sprayed Lysol (again). Following these heavy tasks, he asked me to pay him $4.
“Why?” I had asked.
“Because I did FOUR chores,” he said
“Did someone put you up to this?” I asked.
“No,” he said. Unnamed sources have confirmed that Henry did, in fact, prime Nate for the “kill”, but I’d already figured that out when I watched Nate take the money and hand it directly over to Henry. I would have protested the whole thing, except the hug Nate immediately received from Henry was priceless.
Once Henry pooled his savings, plus threw in his income from babysitting and real estate transactions, he concluded he had enough to make the purchase.
And that, my friends, is how a 12-year-old shags an iPad.