The (Four) Magic Words: Please May I Have?Moments in the Minivan, mompreneur, Pre-Schoolers — By Rebekah on July 2, 2008 at 9:14 am
Their world is pretty much black and white. They have no hidden agendas (or at least ones so hidden that an adult can’t pretty easily figure them out). They have two speeds: high gear (for running on the playground and eating birthday cake) and dawdle (for getting to bed and for when you are trying to get them out the door for pre-school).
And, apparently, there is another simple reality in my 3-yr old’s life. It is the absolute power of the four magic words: “Please may I have.”
It’s happened gradually over time, almost without us noticing it. At first, they were sweet statements of what he wanted – or at least, comments that when stated in that toddler boy singsong voice, sounded sweet. “I want some milk” or “I want to go outside.” We soon helped him turn those statements into requests: “Can I have some milk?”, or “Can I go outside?”. Without thinking much about it, the requests were granted (when granting was easy to do, and when you only have one child to worry about, it almost always is).
Then, we remembered we should be teaching him about the magic word: Please. So we coached our little man to say “please” along with his requests. “Can I have some more juice, please?” or “Can I have some more Veggie-Tales, please?” He got the hang of that so easily that we quickly moved to a more proper way to state his requests: “Please may I have [whatever object has his attention at the time]?”
But somehow, almost imperceptibly, his requests have evolved back into statements based on the belief that the four words “please may I have” will unlock every door, open every cabinet, and get every toy.
While I’m often proud that we have successfully taught our son the grammatically perfect, and politically correct, way to ask for something, I’m also often stunned at how much faith he puts in those four words to make whatever he wants magically materialize.
- Like the Saturday morning when he woke up and wanted to go to school: “Please may I have school?” Well, no, Jack, school is closed. That took a long time to explain.
- Like the Tuesday afternoon when he wanted to have a swim lesson with Ms. Tara: “Please may I have Ms. Tara?” Well, no, Jack, Ms. Tara is not teaching today. That one was solved by going to the pool ourselves.
- Like the Thursday morning when he wanted cake for breakfast: “Please may I have cake?” Well, no, Jack, we don’t eat cake at breakfast. We compromised by putting cake sprinkles on top of his cream cheese & bagel.
Recently, I struggled between mortification and laughing out loud when Jack tried to pass this lesson on to another child, a little older than him, at a birthday party. The party was at the Dallas Arboretum, and our festivities were held in an amazing area with a huge expanse of lawn (I think it’s called the Camphouse Patio). Jack had ended up with two play mowers from the toy stash, which – given this great lawn – were certainly prime toy choices. A little girl came up and tried to take one from his hand. Jack held tight. The girl tried again. Jack was firmly NOT letting go.
- “You have to say: ‘Please may I have’,” Jack told her, in total seriousness.
- The little girl looked stunned. She reached for the mower again. Jack pulled it back again.
- “You have to say: ‘Please may I have’,” he said again.
At that point, I was about to step in to make up something to tell Jack about how he needed to share, even if the other little girl didn’t say please, but she decided this was too crazy of a situation and bounced away. The really funny thing was, I’m sure Jack would have given her the toy – had she said “please may I have”. For him, those four words hold absolute power to grant access to any object of desire.
Fast forward 33 years to me. I sit at my computer writing this, wrestling with a decision that is monumental in my little corner of the world….or even the hundreds of small little things I struggle with daily. How I wish “Please may I have” were that powerful. I’d just say them, and then what I want would magically appear. Right?
I can’t just say: “Please may I have a size 8 body?” and have it materialize. I can’t just say: “Please may I have a trip to Hawaii?” and immediately be lying on Poipu Beach. And – though how I wish this were true, especially right now – I can’t just say: “Please may I have an absolutely stunning, working perfectly, totally user-friendly web site?” and pull it up in a flash on my computer.
Unfortunately, life is not this simple, as Jack will soon learn now that his little brother Luke has just become mobile and has a mind of his own. “Please may I have” only works in situations where someone (the person you’re requesting from) has the will and ability to grant the request. Just this morning, Jack asked Luke this morning: “Please may I have the dump truck?” as Luke was playing with it. (Well, OK, this was after I scolded him for trying to take it out of Luke’s hands. Even for Jack, there are limits to his application of manners, and apparently brothers are one of them.) But voila! – nothing happened. Let me rephrase: something happened – a tug of war.
The point – and the lesson – is, even with a “please may I have,” what he desired didn’t automatically materialize.
Jack will have many more years of learning this lesson. The world at large will consistently wear down his expectation that “please may I have” results in anything magical. So for now, when I can do so without undermining other lessons of the day, I will quickly grant all requests preceeded by “please may I have?”. Because even if it doesn’t always work automatically, I do believe he’ll get a lot further with a “please” than with a tug of war.