Anyone who’s read The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain as a child remembers the fence painting story. Anyone who’s not read it – you did not have an awesome childhood pick it up as soon as you can. In brief, the story emphasizes on how anything can appear “desirable” to others if you pretend to greatly desire it yourself – even if you actually don’t care about it. Tom is given the task of painting a fence – a task he loathes. But he pretends to enjoy it, and tells all the other boys who pass by that he isn’t working but is having fun. What is defined as play and what is defined as work depends on how it is perceived.
While pretension isn’t one of my strongest suits, I remembered this story, and its lesson thereof, when I returned from the recent Indimeet with the identification wristband still around my wrist. My son was playing with his new Hummer and BMW (I wish my friends would gift me those too – but life-size versions!) when to get his attention, I admired the paper wristband like it’s the greatest thing on earth. He was intrigued, and much like Tom Sawyer’s buddies, offered to trade one of his cars for the wristband.
I wish you were there to see that evil smile on my face.
I took the Hummer, gave him the wristband. Then of course, I wanted the BMW too (yeah, you’re right, I shouldn’t be a mom). So I pretended to love the Hummer to bits. Admired it from every angle. This burnt him a little I think cos now he looked at his BMW like it was a rotten egg. He offered to trade it for the Hummer. I said my wristband was worth two cars, and he should be giving both of them to me.
At that moment he was dilemma personified. Because, to twist Mark Twain’s words, “Work consists of what you are obliged to play with, until your mother comes along and pretends to love what you were obliged to part with.”
He realized pretty quickly though that the wristband was useless, and not as fun as I had made it seem to be. He scowled in a “You silly woman” kinda way and walked off victorious with both his cars (and the wristband).
It’s alright. Like every other, this incident had its lessons for me. For one, I realized Mark Twain was right about making something seem desirable. It confirmed what I already knew – pretension wasn’t one of my strongest suits and even preschoolers can see through me if they tried a little.
And I got to play with a Hummer!