About a year ago, Sean’s grandmother gave him a money jar which sits on top of his dresser. It is a big plastic jar that looks like a pickle jar, only it has a slot on the top which shows a digital reading of how much money has been deposited. The digital reading is about as accurate as taking a wild guess, or basically the same formula we are using to determine the actual cost of national healthcare.
Be that as it may…
Like his father, Sean likes to hold on to his money, so after a year of saving, the jar was half full with about $40, mostly in change. Some of the money he earned from his towel folding business but most was given to him with impunity from recalcitrant grandparents, aunts, uncles and other nice people.
Last week my favorite five-year-old was in a growth spurt or something was up because we had some attitude and obedience issues. Normally he is a pretty compliant and polite little guy and doesn’t delight in giving me too much trouble. Which works out well for him since I don’t abide much nonsense.
But, last week there was an incident involving the carpet in his bedroom. I won’t say what the offense was because I don’t think anyone deserves to have their misdeeds recorded for all the internets to analyze and comment upon forever amen. But it wasn’t an accident; it was premeditated, willful and on purpose. An accident I can easily forgive because who among us hasn’t knocked over a perfume display in Sanger Harris? Accidents happen. But this was no accident.
I was in a quandary as to what to do about the incident because it was so far out of character for this child. I was really interested in getting to the bottom of why he would do such a thing more so than issuing a swift punishment.
I was baffled. I took a day or so to figure out how to proceed. The side benefit of this delay was that it allowed him to stew just a little and meditate upon his actions.
Finally, I recalled that one time my brother shot out the neighbor’s picture window with his BB gun and I believe my parents made him pay to replace it. My brother is not now, nor has he ever been in jail, so I decided to go the personal responsibility route. Rather than punishment, I decided that the appropriate thing to do was to have him take responsibility for his actions and make him pay to have the carpet cleaned. And that meant I would have to confiscate his money.
He cried when I told him I would have to take his money to pay for the carpet cleaning. “I was saving that money for an iPhone!” he wailed. I told him that was really sad with as much sympathy as I could muster. And then I took away his money.
The rest of the week passed with no further incident. And although I never got to the bottom of why he did what he did, I did see in him a contrite heart. He was sorry. So Saturday, I took all the silver coins and the dollars to pay for the carpet cleaning, but I let him have his pennies back for seed money for his iPhone.
AD and I talk to Sean a lot about spending and saving so that he might grow into a financially responsible man. But we have some concern that because he lives a privileged life, that he doesn’t know what it is to want and to wait and to do without — which in our view are not bad things.
So sometimes, in an effort to remind Sean of how good he has it, AD will tell him that when he was growing up, he just wanted to have enough money to be able to get a snack out of the vending machine at school. That was his idea of being rich. But you know, these kinds of stories tend to fall on deaf ears. All they hear is “Iwalkedtoschooluphillbothwaysthreefeetofsnowblahblah”.
We are genetically programmed to say these things. We cannot stop ourselves.
This morning, for the first time in 11 years, AD’s work took him out of the house to work on a project. All Sean has ever known is AD working in his office upstairs. So this morning, as AD was heading for the door, dressed and carrying his brief case, it shocked us all just a little. Sean stopped him and asked him to wait. He disappeared into his room and when he came back, he handed AD a fistful of pennies. “Here you go dad, in case you want to buy a snack out of the vending machine.”
So, maybe he was listening after all.
I’m not really sure what in the heck happened here this past week. I think we might all be going to through a growth spurt.
Note: Sean is not getting an iPhone until he can buy me one too.