On Sunday, my 6 year old son Paul, wanted to go to Game Stop to look for a new game for his Nintendo DS. When I was in first grade I got an Atari 2600 and that thing was my life. The same is true of Paul and his DS. We share this heart connection over video games.
All day long he wanted to go. He first asked about it before we went to church. No son, too early. Then he wanted to go right after church. No son, we need to eat lunch. Then he wanted to go right after lunch. No son, I want to rest. Then we went to Yogurtland as a family for a snack. While it was just a couple hundred yards from Game Stop, the timing wasn’t right. Then we got home from Yogurtland. No son, you need to do some homework. Then he did some homework and I ran out of excuses.
Can we go to Game Stop now? Yes.
Paul and Megan had each been saving their allowance and happily stuffed their pockets with every penny they had. Each week they can earn up to $5 if they maintain the family rules and perform some basic chores. The truth is that it’s a pretty easy $5 to earn as I’m a softy of a dad. (Kristen rolls her eyes at me each week as she doesn’t think they’ve really earned $5. I’m a benevolent father, what can I say?) Megan had $25 in her pocket and Paul had $23. As we drove the few blocks over to the video game store Paul was careful, yet firm, to remind me that I had been in Minneapolis last Sunday and mommy hadn’t given them their $5. And that it was also Sunday. So if they would each clean their room and finish their homework they could earn another $5.
Practically speaking, Megan had $35 she could spend and Paul had $33. When you are 6 or 8 years old, like my kids, that’s a lot of cash. It represents 7 weeks of saving every penny you have. They were aware that the money burning a hole in their pocket represented a lot of homework and a lot of room cleaning and a lot of avoiding temptation to buy candy or smaller toys. To earn and save over $30 is an accomplishment! Truth be told, $35 is a lot of money to daddy, too! I rarely, if ever, carry that much cash with me. (Do I need to mention that saving $30 is more than most Americans save in the same amount of time?)
It was a lot of money. I was proud of them.
We parked the car and the kids floated into the store. Paul, who had been to the store with me twice before, instructed his big sister on the game plan. “The DS games are on the wall by the front door… you don’t even need to ask anyone, just start looking as soon as you get in the door and they are right there. The used games are on the lower parts of the shelf. The new games are up high. Used games are cheaper so you can get one for like $10. New games cost more than $20.”
The store was full of older kids looking at XBox 360 games so we were completely ignored. The girl at the counter barely acknowledged our entrance and quickly got back to showing the older kids the latest and greatest in the world of gaming. They were boys who play video games and she was a girl. This was the closest thing any of those nerds would come to a date for a long time.
My kids didn’t notice or care about the clerk. They had serious business to do.
Megan, our animal lover, scoured the lower shelves for used games about pets. There are games to take care of dogs, cats, birds, exotic animals… on and on. Some games have a lot of different pets while others specialize in a certain pet. Megan loves cats and within minutes she was trying to decide between one game which was about cats of all ages and another that was just about kittens. 1000 titles and my girl had it narrowed to two in about 3 minutes. I noticed she was happy in the $10-20 range. She carried a certain confidence in knowing that she didn’t have to spend much money to get a fun game to play with. Plus, if she only spent $15, she’d have $20 left over.
Paul scoured the shelves looking for Pokemon games. He found 4-5 games that all looked about the same but had different price points. Confused, I showed him how to find the copyright date on the back of the game. The newer ones were more expensive, the older ones cheaper.
As Megan and I were comparing the two games she had narrowed her choice down to, I saw out of the corner of my eye that Paul had put all of his games back on the lower shelf where he had found them. He took a couple steps back and craned his neck almost to the ceiling. Not quite 4 feet tall it must have been nearly impossible to see games on shelves 8 feet in the air. He was looking at the brand new games. His eyes scanned the best sellers on the top shelf. Then they started looking at the second shelf and stopped cold. The brand new, special edition Bakugan Battle Brawlers game.
He pulled on my waist. “Daddy, look! It’s the brand new Bakugan game… it comes in a big box, too. How much is that one?” I reached up and took it off the shelf, handing it to him. His eyes were huge. His entire disposition had changed. He had gone from hunting for something cheap to discovering something almost mystical and beyond comprehension. As the game box changed hands his eyes devoured the front cover and started to read it all to me. Then he turned it over and realized something horrible. It was $35. His heart sank.
Almost immediately he gave it back to me. In an instant he went from this mystical experience right back to shopper mode. “No one has that game at school yet, daddy. It’s too much, I don’t have $35 I only have $23 and you owe us $10 more, that’s just $33. And that game is more than I have.”
I knew he wanted it bad. He didn’t cry but I could feel his disappointment. Within 15 seconds he had gone through a sea of emotions. Searching, finding, holding magic, disappointment, and then back to searching.
This little interaction tugged my heart.
He walked away and went back to the older Pokemon games. He wasn’t unhappy or upset. In earlier years he may have collapsed on the floor. He was just matter of fact. This was a sign of my little boy growing up. He wanted a new game for his DS and the fact that he didn’t have enough money didn’t mean he couldn’t get a new game. It just meant he had to get a game that wasn’t exactly what everything he wanted.
Back by the Pokeman games on the lower shelf, I went over to him and crouched down to his level. You know Paul, you have $33 and that game is $35. You are pretty close. Just $2 away. Next week you would have enough to buy it. “I know, it’s OK. I’ll just get one of these. I really want that game but I don’t have enough right now.”
“Paul,” I said, “you remember that we have a rule that if you want to borrow next weeks allowance to get something now, that it’s OK. You just have to ask daddy.”
I got up and went back over to Megan. But I kept a close eye on my son. I knew that I had put him in a tough spot. He is wired just like me. He doesn’t like to ask anyone for anything. He knew that I would loan him the extra $5 so he could buy what he wanted. But asking dad for the loan was really hard.
As he looked at the lesser games I could see him biting his lip. He really wanted the Bakugan game. The fact that it came with an action figure made those lesser games seem really inferior.
But asking daddy for $5? That was a dilemma.
He looked at the Pokeman games. They now weren’t what he wanted. I watched him wrestling through the McLane stubborn nature. It’s something I know all-too-well.
Megan chose the kitten game and was happy as a lark. She started to wander the store as Paul made his final selection.
Paul came to me empty-handed and sullen. I bent down for a serious father-to-son talk. Biting his lip he explained the whole situation to me. “The Pokemon games do look like fun, daddy. And I do have enough money for them. But I really want that new Bakugan game. It looks really cool and it has a Bokugon that I’ve always wanted.”
Uh-huh. So what do you want to do?
“Well, I really want to get that Bakugan game but I only have $33 and it costs $35.”
Yeah, son. All you have to do is ask me and I will let you borrow $5 from next weeks allowance.
He was breathing deeply. I could feel his heart pounding. He was biting his lower lip. He really didn’t want to ask me. As much as he wanted to borrow the money, he was really weighing his options. I could tell he wanted me to just cave and offer to loan him the money without his having to ask. But he looked into my eyes and could see that I was going to make him ask.
Finally, after about 30 long seconds of this dance he opened his mouth.
“Daddy, can I borrow $5 so I can get the Bakugan game right now?”
I stood up.
“Yes son, you bet.” I reached high up on the shelf, grabbed the game, and handed him the box. He confidently pulled it from my hand, found Megan, proudly showed his sister, showed her everything about it that was cool in his eyes, and dragged her to the counter so they could pay.
All he had to do was ask daddy. I wanted to give him the money. But I wanted to be asked. When he asked, both our hearts leapt.
What does this story have to do with our prayer life? As believers, we have a Heavenly Father who is waiting to give us both the things that we need and the things that we want. The Bible says, you just have to ask. That doesn’t mean God will give us everything we want. But it does mean that Daddy wants us to ask.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.