So we were at the farmers market early in the morning before preschool and my son asked me if he could pay the man for our veggies. Sure, I said, and lifted him up to pay the farmer. He received two nickels change and I let him keep them. He was so excited he held them in his hands all the way to school. I told him to put them safely in his pocket until later. When I picked him up he remembered and pulled out the nickels. He held them in his hands the whole time we were at the grocery store after school getting all the supplies we couldn’t get at the farmer’s market. When all the groceries were in the trunk, we both got buckled in and we were about half way home when he realized the nickels went missing. Huge drama. A normal sane mother would have changed the subject somehow or let him cry until we could get home and she could distract him. Me? I felt sad for him and yes, we drove back to the store to look for the missing nickels. Mind you, I had more change in my purse but he had to have those nickels. Sigh.
When we got there we looked in the spots where we’d been to no avail. Finally I said they were lost and we talked about how perhaps someone found them who needed them more than he did. At first, this conversation did not go well. He kept bringing up the missing nickels all night long. He’d make the “needy people” into villainous perpetrators stealing his nickels. At the end of the night when we were reading books he picked out one we hadn’t read in a long time called the teddy bear, about a boy who loses his teddy bear only to be found and adopted by a homeless man. When the boy finds him months later, he decides to let the man keep the bear because he needs it more than the boy. It was amazing that he picked the book out; it was as if he had actually heard me – that something was getting through! As if he was trying to make sense of it all.
Ever wonder how these little experiences will shape the way your child will look at money? We go in with the very best of intentions but in the end there is just no way of knowing. It’s like class; the good ones are always experiments. It seems to me my parents experimented very little with me in terms of money – that is, they took care of everything, out of love. This actually, taught me very little. Later I had problems with understanding how credit worked, as well as keeping a budget or balancing a checkbook. To be honest I still have problems with the checkbook. I often struggle with this in the classroom. Even though the students want you to solve it for them, you must help them learn it for themselves, the struggle will pay off in the long run. We hope. We always hope. We cannot know.
Perhaps I should not have let him play with money. Perhaps that shows disrespect for it. (flash forward to my son buying a giant TV from Best Buy without checking with his wife or wallet) Perhaps it’s good that he lost it and he doesn’t let money own him (flash forward to my son as a gambler.) Perhaps this will make him cautious and he will take care of his money (flash forward to my son the miser hoarding it all and making his kids eat spam).
Or perhaps he’ll just learn to share. I suppose some things are worth the risk. For now at least, the lesson was worth the expense.