Monday, September 26, 2016

Milk Money

The kids were gathered at the dining room table. It could be any weekday evening. After school. Before dinner. Scents emanating from boiling pots or sizzling pans on the stove. Homework folders spread before them, forms to sign, permission slips to permit. Checks for book drives and school supplies to write. Lunches to pack. The late afternoon fall light golden and pumpkin streaming through the leaves in the trees in the backyard, facing their own mortality with their short attention spans.

I brought Elise Sam and Peter's backpacks to unload their lunch boxes for the following day. As I handed her Peter's it jingled suspiciously. She shook it again, and it jingled again, like a piggy bank.

She unzipped the top pocket only to discover a handful of change. About $1.75 in loose change to be exact.

She showed the money to Peter and asked, "What's this?"

"Money for milk," he answered matter-of-factly.

"Did you get a milk today?"

He said he had.

"So where did all this money come from?"

Peter said he got all the money when he got the milk.

"But that's not the way it works. You give the money and get the milk. You didn't get the money and the milk."

Peter nodded his head, "Yes, I did."

We were confused.

"Did you take the money?"

"Yeah, I took the money."

"Peter, that's stealing."

"Noooo...he gave it to me."

Elise; "Who gave it to you?"

"The guy selling the milk."

"He gave you the money and the milk?"

"Yep." Peter grinned slyly, as though he were about to burst at the seams any moment. "I gave him some money and he gave me that money back and the milk."

"Where'd you get the money?"

"From my jar," Peter responded. The kids keep -- and obsess over -- a mason jar in their room for their allowance money. The problem is, neither Elise or I can find five seconds to write out a chore chart. Moreover, in the unlikely event that any of the kids were do actually do any chores, I never have any cash to give to them anyway. It'd be logistically less of a hassle to wire them money into a clandestine overseas account.

It's something we're trying to get better at as everything we've read says that if nothing else, you're supposed to have your children do two things: 1) chores and 2) learn to love. I think we're doing pretty good on #2 and we are trying to bestow more responsibility on the kids. The last thing I want is to raise kids who are completely unable to do anything for themselves. The problem is: most of the time I actually like to do things for them. Maybe it's how I show love. So, I'm trying to rechannel that into a love of of showing them how to do things. The thing is they totally eat it up and are eager to help, especially in the kitchen.

Elise pressed on, "So you emptied your jar and took the money to school to buy a milk?"

"Yeah!" Pete beamed, nodding his head enthusiastically. "The guy said, 'That's more than I was expecting!'" He cracked up as we all busted out laughing, imagining fluffly-haired Pete-o dumping two handfuls of change on the unsuspecting cafeteria worker.

No worries here about Petey being unprepared to face the real world. The boy wanted a milk with lunch and he figured out on his own how to get one!

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