Hope and Luck

Parenting sucks. And tonight helped reinforce that for me.

As a fundraiser, the music department at Patrick’s school has been holding a raffle for the better part of the week, culminating in a 4-hour event tonight that included food, a silent auction, music performances, and the final raffle drawing.

I’ve been spotting Patrick some money during the week so he can enter the raffle, because one prize in particular had his complete attention: the Legos.

Those of you who know him know this: he is obsessed by Legos. I do not believe there will ever be a time in his life when he will have enough Legos. And I suppose that’s okay, simply because there are worse things he could be wanting or be hooked on.

Patrick saw the basket of probably $250 worth of Legos and was hopelessly in love with a prize. Over the last few days, he has poured everything he possibly could into that raffle, to him a pretty large sum of $18 by the time he was done, into the drawing for the prize.

He didn’t win. And I don’t know what was more crushing to me as his father: that in one instant, he just completely deflated; or that he did lose the opportunity for something that he really wanted.

Trust my son to reframe this fundraising opportunity as his chance at redemption when it comes to luck: he claims to be unlucky and not able to win anything. And at his age, I guess I can understand the hopelessness of it all. Though, I should point out, I’ve only one one thing in a raffle in 41 years: our great tickets to the Twins game last season.

But, in his mind, as he told me, he saw this not only as an opportunity to score a huge treasure trove of Legos, but also as a chance to shake the unlucky demons from his life. And for the life of me, I had no idea how to respond to that.

There are frequent times like this, as it turns out, when you simply cannot reason with a child’s mind. They can make a relevant argument out of a completely preposterous concept, or make a very valid point out of reasoning that is devoid of logic. I couldn’t argue with him. And he’s a teenage boy, which also meant that any kind of hug or physical comfort were immediately rejected. Truth be told, had money been no object and the underlying life lesson not been an issue, I would have immediately gone and bought him the equivalent in Lego sets, because that would have instantaneously patched up the hole in his heart.

But I don’t have the money to do that. And I believe that trying to just placate him by buying things is just wrong: it doesn’t teach him anything valuable. And while I refrained by telling him simply that “life sucks sometimes,” I did try to point out the bigger picture: that this was a fundraiser for a school department he is a part of, and that raffles were simply another form of gambling…And gambling exists because it’s unfair most of the time, but fair enough some of the time to keep them coming back for more.

I know that in his mind, he’d built up the opportunity, and that we’d return home with the pile of Legos and he’d be building things long into the night. And I’m desperately sorry that he can’t do that. And, sadly, any other plans we’d had to have just a father/son night are gone as well because he’s just curled up on the couch trying to drown his sorrows in some cartoon on TV.

The truth is that I can’t make this any better. He’s feeling loss compounded by more loss: not only is he still unlucky and didn’t win a drawing, but he’s out $18, which he could have used to buy a smaller collection of Legos. All is wrong in the world. At least according to my teenager.

A big part of parenting is just going to bed and hoping that your kids will awaken with the hope that seems to come back to them with the dawning of every new day. Patrick will be bitter about this for a few days, so I’ve got to be careful not to say anything. But hopefully tomorrow morning he’ll be in a better humor.

Or at least he’d better be: it’s Free Comic Book Day–the annual nerdgasm that somehow I agree to drive him around to at comic book shops across the city.

See you tomorrow.