I’d ruined years of my wife’s child-rearing–for only a nickle.
My two-year old son and I were heading into the local K-Mart. I can’t even remember what I was buying, probably something for my beat-up boat, but I’d brought Aidan along. We were heading in to the store’s entrance when he saw the merry-go-round, one of those three-seaters.
I put him on the donkey and congratulated myself on my parenting skills. Aidan rocked back and forth, having a wonderful time. I smiled at the joy that was about to happen.
I put the nickel in the box,; he lurched forward with the music and grabbed those painted ears tight. His eyes widened, then a large grin came over his face as he rode the 4.5 laps around the little circle. When it abruptly stopped he tried doing what we all do with a broken car or a stalled fairground pony; he rocked back and forth violently, trying to jump-start the ill-tempered animal.
Then he saw what he hadn’t seen last time. I dug into my pocket and found another nickel. He saw it go in the bright yellow box, heard the clink and grabbed tight again for the next round…and then one more.
The inanimate donkey that was so appealing moments before was now a terrible punishment. Aidan was furious at its inaction and yet refused to be pulled off–screaming at the cruel carny-father that wouldn’t let him continue his fun. I finally was able to unhook his legs from the donkey’s belly and carried my twisting armful into K-Mart to pick up whatever it was.
And when I returned home with the tear-stained toddler and reported what had happened, my wife shook her head and informed me that she’d never put money in those things.
For the next three years, until he started earning his own nickels, we avoided K-Marts.