I requested that my oldest build some tomato cages for me yesterday. He came out to the garden with the wire cutters in his hand and a cloak of darkness wrapped around his shoulders.
"Why can't Daniel do this?" Darth Vader moaned.
"Because I asked you to."
"It's not fair."
"Tough. It will take an hour of your time so get it done."
"I don't see why I should have to do something that isn't going to benefit me in any shape form or fashion." At last the attitude has been given words. What's in it for me?
I resisted the urge to chew him out, but the boy sometimes baffles me.
The other three are givers at heart, quick to step up and help when they spot the need, quick to say yes when I ask for it. They see someone hurting and they respond without hesitation. All four boys are from the same house, same parents, same rules. And yet this is what I've got in an oldest son. He doesn't do anything for anyone else gracefully unless it's either a) his idea or b) there's some kind of reward in it for him.
A lecture was in order, but I was in my garden enjoying my green growing things and didn't feel like talking at length. So I kept it succinct.
"Because, Son, sometimes in life we do things for other people without any expectation of benefits. Like, for instance, when your Dad or I hand you money so you can go to the movies with your friends, or when I drive over to pick you up from an after school event instead of demanding that you find your own way home. Trust me son, there's nothing in either of those things for us, except the knowledge that we're making your life a little easier and we like to make you happy. It's a shame you don't know how to reciprocate."
He shut up and did exactly what I told him to do and he did a fine job, but the cloak of darkness hung on his shoulders the entire time.
Sigh . . .