Sailplane in Arlington

For my birthday, I gave myself a ride in a sailplane with the Evergreen Soaring Club. I fly paragliders whenever I can, and it’s been maybe 18 years since I was behind the yolk of a Cessna 152. But the moment I stepped foot onto the tarmac, I was hit with a flood of joyous memories and sensations.

There was the sound of the prop-planes on the taxi, runway, takeoff, and landing – that distinctive sound of the prop slicing through the air and the Doppler effect as it goes from approaching to fading into the distance.

There was the faint smell of airplane fuel. The smell of Jet-A is quite distinct, and unlike the smell of gasoline, it conjures a sense of power and freedom to travel into the skies.

Of course, there was the sight of all the small planes, tied down to the ground, wheels chocked, and cockpits covered from the outside to protect them from the sun. Unlike a commercial airport where I only see them from the window, here, I could walk among them, place my hand on their fuselage or wingtip and admire their sheer beauty, power, and grace. Even when dormant, they created a sense of walking between the gods of the sky.

There was a gigantic windsock in the center of the field, as well as scattered flags, all giving pilots information about the winds. Ah, yes, the wind! I know it oh so well from my own flights off of Tiger Mountain, but here, on the tarmac, it boldly proclaims “Launch this way today.

There were other people on the tarmac, most of them pilots, and there’s a subtle yet distinctive look of shared honor exchanged between people of the sky. Even being here for a “demo flight” in a sailplane, the feeling is unmistakable. It says “Welcome. We are people of the sky, our hearts live amidst the clouds, and we fill our lungs with the wind. Spread your wings and join us!”

At the far end of the runway was a Piper Arrow, reminding me of the times I flew with my father as a child in his plane. So from a very early age, the spirit of the sky had been seared into my soul.

But for today, here in Arlington field, I am a student. Tory, my instructor, takes me to the plane, waiting on the grassy field. He asks if I’ve flown small planes before, and I confess my sin, having been so many years away from the cockpit. He assures me “So you’re still a pilot… you’re just not current.” Never mind my frequent forays in my paraglider, his words still ring true. Once a pilot, always a pilot. There is something of the sky, which, once it takes hold of one’s soul, will never let go.

At last, standing alongside the glider, he reviews the basic controls of the aircraft. They have not lost their familiarity through the years, but they are different in this craft. And unlike a solo-launch in my Gin Rebel, a sailplane requires a tow pilot, and somebody walking, then running alongside the wing until we get enough speed to keep the wings stable.

The tow plane slowly takes up the slack, and once taught, begins to throttle up for takeoff. We are airborne well before the tow leaves the ground, so we stay low until he too enters the embrace of the sky. Tory has the controls through all of the takeoff, and I follow his instructions, learning what I can about the differences of this craft from others in my history.

At about 5,000′ AGL, we release our tow-line. The tow-plane banks left and we bank right. From here on out, we’re on our own. Tory demonstrates a few maneuvers and asks if I understand. I let him know that it’s all conceptual unless I feel it in my body with the controls. So he hands them over to me, and once again, I’m the pilot in command of my craft.

Gingerly, at first, I play with turns to the left and right. I gently maneuver the ailerons and the elevator with the stick in my hand and then re-acquaint myself with the rudder at my feet. In almost no time, I join the three controls back together in my mind and rewire my brain for this new configuration of flight. Pitch, roll, and yaw – the fundamentals of flight control are nothing new. It is only the connection between which input on my side translates to the proper motions on the outside that I need to relearn, and it comes back remarkably fast.

Tory can probably hear the gears turning inside my skull and in just a few minutes, he asks me to practice some steeper, coordinated turns. All the while, I’m not merely playing with flight – I’m building out a mental spreadsheet! Maneuvers are down the side, aircraft are across the top, and the center squares are the motions and actions required to effect the maneuver in the craft. Except that I’m not really building this sheet at all – I’m passively watching the cells get filled out as my body joyously experiments in this new craft.

Prior to coming here, I acquainted myself with some aerial maps to aid in orientation, but it hardly seemed necessary. I always knew where the airport was, and we seldom ventured far for my inaugural soaring flight. I set us up on the downwind leg of our approach for landing, but Tory took back the controls for base and final while I followed along, maintaining gentle contact with the stick and rudder as he flew the plane in.

In my paraglider, I set final glide to land where I want, and I have minimal control over vertical or horizontal speed at lower altitudes. Final approach is the last hundred feet of descent, and coming in ‘hot’ means anything faster than I can run after flare – maybe 10 knots across the ground. In the sailplane, however, final is still a good 400′ AGL, and we put the nose into a dive to travel closer to 60 knots for greater control. It’s hard to keep my eyes far ahead to avoid the sense of ground-rush.

We appear to be 20′ above the ground at the end of the grassy strip, and 60 knots is COOKING across the ground compared to my paraglider. Descending that last bit of altitude seems to take forever since the wings are long enough to create ground-effect. Plus, with a wheel on the belly of the plane, our final flair is much less pronounced. A perfect flair in my paraglider drops both my vertical and forward speed to almost zero. In the sailplane, we kiss the earth with a gentle descent, but we’re still rolling at a good 30 knots or more for another 500 yards until we finally come to a stop.

It’s a different craft indeed. Precision landing in a sailplane means landing in a soccer field. Precision landing in a paraglider means landing on a frisbee. One is not better or worse than the other – just different – and both are imminently enjoyable, and worth every minute and dollar invested into the experience.

The Unknown

My dear ones, this is a post about the unknown. From your ripe age of 6, the world of the unknown is simply immense for you. You live in the space of ‘why’, ‘how come’, and ‘what if.’ These are wonderful questions, even if sometimes you take them to a level that we call the “zebra game.” That’s when you ask your questions to a deeper and deeper level to where it gets absurd, and at that point a zebra comes into the answer somehow, as a gentle way of letting you know that the question is not going to bear much fruit beyond where it is right now.

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And that can be a hard thing for you at this age… you are still BUILDING your understanding of the world around you, and much of the background of obvious to mom and I is simply not yet present for you unless you build it through continued explorations of where the boundaries of knowing can be found, right there with the zebra.

A while back, we started watching “Cosmos” with Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s an amazing remake of the show I remember watching when I was a few years older than you are now, back when it was hosted by Carl Sagan. It has amazing graphics and storytelling, but still much of it is over your head. So we watch it with the remote in hand, and you ask questions that I get to simplify or put into a context that you understand. For me, it is such an amazing joy to interact with you as you learn and understand. It’s a joy just knowing that for most of the questions you ask, there IS an answer somewhere, even if I don’t know what it is.

Anna, you will often ask me how I know so much. I playfully tell you that it’s all stuff that I learned in “Umi School.” You already know that there’s no such thing, so I tell you it comes from continuing the path of learning that you are on today, and taking it forward through many years and practice. Indeed, my dear ones, the love of learning is a cherished value for me, and it is my sincere hope to instill that within you. Also, to ensure that nothing in your formal education is able to beat that out of you!

In my own learning and practices as a leadership coach, I embrace the unknown. Unless and until one is willing and able to step into the unknown, then one will forever be destined to repeat and recombine elements of the known. New ventures, new ideas, new possibilities… these all lie in the domain of the unknown.  It’s even part of Star Trek:  “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

In this very moment, however, as I write to you through these pages, I am in the middle of an unknown as large as any I have gone through, and I am terrified. About 6 months back at this point, I had a rapid onset, intense headache that was followed by tinnitus (I hear a ringing sound in my ears). Since that time, a number of other symptoms have come and gone, to the point that it was finally time to have somebody look into my brain with super-magnets (MRI) to see what they could find.

But all I have right now is the black and white pictures from my brain – like lots and lots of zebras – and no understanding of what any of it really means just yet. I have a series of symptoms that I’ll not bore you with here in this post, save to share that I am deeply immersed into the unknown at the moment, and if there were a zebra I could catch hold of, I would ride it out of here.

In this moment, I am doing my noble best to embrace the unknown as a good thing – something that holds equal parts possibility as dread, and I choose to focus on the former. But the latter refuses to be silent – and so the two battle it out in my skull like the light and dark wolves I told you about not long ago. My dear ones, you are far too young to worry yourself with matters like this, and I take comfort in knowing it will be many years before you even read these words for yourself. But for now? For now, you are both the food, life, energy, spirit and joy that I feed to my white wolf.

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Transitions

My dear ones, today was your last day at SMR Montessori. You have been going there since you were just infants. For your first two years, starting at 6-months, you went one day a week to give Mom some time-off while I worked. Then when you were about 2, you were old enough to go to daycare and Mom returned to work. So easily for the past 4 of your 6 years, you’ve been learning and growing there. Today, that came to an end.

There was a ceremony of sort (Pizza & a send-off). Mom picked you up from school, and when you both came home, you were quite sad and showing it in different ways. Lucas, you came up to me and gave such a slow, soft hug. Your face hung low, and you said you were sad, but that was about it. Anna, you were far more distraught, going back and forth between wanting hugs, screaming your sorrow, lying down, and going into your room. You kept saying you wanted to see Ms. Lavenya just one more week.

Endings are hard, my dears. They always are. But you see, the joy hidden in the sorrow of our partings is that we cared enough to matter to each other. Our sadness is a reminder that we lost (or perceive a loss) of something that was important to us. It’s a way to reconnect to our memories of joy, and to tag them as significant to who we have become through our time and growth together.

JoyInSorrow

Tomorrow morning, you have your first official start to your new school at St. Luke. Mom and I are both going with you to see you off, and I only hope that I don’t fall to pieces the way you did this evening.

You don’t recognize it yet, but endings and beginnings are a huge part of life. They are often where most of the learning occurs – where we solidify our experiences coming to an end, and set our intentions for what will follow. They are where we have an opportunity to course-correct, and at least for youth, to re-decide who it is that we want to be for the next leg of our journey through life.

There is one decision in particular that will slowly dawn upon you, though perhaps not for many years to come. That is the decision of whether and how open to be with those you will encounter on your new journey, even while you grieve for those you just left behind. I assert that one of they keys to a life of joy is your ability to continue through life with an open heart, despite the hurts and sorrows one endures. Endings are often painful, and the fearful parts within us can try in vain to prevent that pain by refusing to open up to others we encounter next. But be open, my loves. Be open to new experiences; to new friends; to new ideas and learning; to new people and to trust; to failures and to joy. Be open to all of these and more, despite the stumbling blocks you will encounter.

As the youngsters that you are today, I don’t think it has even occurred to you to close off in an attempt to avoid pain. But at some point, I have no doubt, you will come to that decision point of whether to open just once more or to seek self-protection. My dear ones, stay open. Always. Ultimately, that is the path to your greatest joy – yours and those around you.

New friends

School starts one week from today. Of course, you have both been going to a Montessori preschool for years, so it’s really only your NEW school that starts. But today, we took you out of preschool to go to St. Luke’s to meet your new teacher and some of your classmates. Even though you had been in the classrooms before, such as when we were trying to decide between Kindergarten and 1st grade, you were both quite nervous.

Lucas, Mom stayed with you in Ms. Yarno’s class, and I went with you, Anna, to Ms. Nelson’s room. All the kids brought in various supplies that would be pooled and used over the year, and your first job was to put them in the relevant piles. You had a seat with your name on it already, and a little boy whose seat was across from you came and sat down. The two of you were quite shy, not willing to make eye-contact, let alone say hello, even on prompting. You grabbed a book and asked me to read to you on the side of the room, which I did, after a couple failed attempts to coax you into being social.

Then we all went outside to have our picnic lunches near the playground. In the playground, you were both fine, running and jumping and playing with new kids, but come time to sit down, and you both sort of froze again. I’m not sure what or where the distinction came in for you, but clearly it was there in your mind.

The whole event was really just to help reduce nervous jitters and say hello, so it only lasted about an hour and a half. But before leaving, Anna, you wanted to go say goodbye to your teacher. As we were in there, there was another girl, slightly taller than you. You just stared at her, and her eyes went to her feet. I whispered into your ear, say “Hi. My name is Anna. What’s yours?”

I know it to be a simple task, but your whole body was in contraction when finally you said “My name is Anna.” Again I whispered the rest, and you asked for her name, which was Alley.

Focused on how you were feeling in the moment, I looked at the two of you, then whispered to you “Are you nervous too?” You looked me right in the eye, and I said it was OK to ask because I think you are both feeling the same thing. You asked, and Alley ever so slowly nodded her head, so now you had a shared feeling between you.

You looked at me again, almost as if waiting for me to whisper your next line, which was “Would you like to be friends?” You said it, she nodded, and then the two of you took it from there without further help. You walked up to her, you both smiled and re-confirmed that last part again. YES! You did both want to be friends!

Later, when we came home again, you even drew a picture of the two of you – Anna and Alley – as friends, and could hardly wait for next week to give it to her.

My darling little girl, as I’m writing, I reflect on the process of what it takes to make a new friend as an adult, and it seems so much more involved, time-consuming, and difficult than it was for you today, though I don’t for a moment diminish that for you, even what you did was a challenge. As adults, we all have our own lives. As parents in particular, our lives are largely centered around each other as a couple, and you as our children. The friends I do have are quite small in number, and it’s only with deliberate effort that even those relationships are maintained. And making new friends? With the requirement of commonality, shared interests, and ongoing communication? That almost never happens now, save perhaps for some learning communities that I participate in.

Hmm… learning communities. Just like you in Kindergarten, and that book that All I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. Indeed.

At bedtime, I typically ask you both what your best part of the day was, and likewise I tell you something from my perspective. Tonight, dear Anna, I told you of your interaction with Alley. In particular, that the simple conversation you had today is the key to making friends. Most people you meet are going to be just as nervous and scared as you were today. And your ability to start a conversation with “Hi! My name is Anna, what’s yours?” is the key you need to making all the friends you want.

I’ll also often ask you what you are grateful for at bedtime. As I write, I am grateful for my wife and your mother. I am grateful for the two of you beyond measure. I am grateful for my family – near and far. And I am grateful for those I still consider my dearest and longest friends: Jerry Fagen, Stephanie Hicks, Johanna Klouda, Kobe Boegart (chronological order). And I am grateful for my teachers, especially Bob Dunham, for without my teachers, and the communities I join through learning, I would never have met and formed many of the friendships I have today.

Out of Order

No, there’s nothing broken here, which, with the two of you, is actually an accomplishment. Rather, I’m writing to the two of you from a concern about learning things in the wrong order. You see, when I was your age, I was exposed to coconut-scented sunblock before I even knew what a coconut was. And when finally I saw the real thing, I hated eating it because I forever thought I was eating sunscreen. Likewise with lemon scented dish soap. When finally I saw a lemon, I had no idea how or why anybody would want to put slices of dish-soap into their drinking water. To this day, the first thing I do with the lemon is get it the heck out of my glass.

And now, my beloveds, we come back to you. About a month or so back, we read The Magician’s Nephew together, which is the first in the Narnia Chronicles. Now we’re reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You’re only 6, so much of the deeper and religious aspect of the story is lost on you. At least I think it might be, but I do try to highlight the Christian parts so that you get them. What I wonder about, however, is whether when you finally learn and really understand the story of Christ, if you will end up thinking “Oh… he’s just like Aslan in that story about Narnia” in the same way I have coconuts and lemons stored out of order in my brain.

Lego my eggooo

Back in the 1970’s, there was this ad campaign for “Lego my eggo.”  While we skip the name-brand, you both love your frozen waffles.  Apparently, the toaster was unplugged this morning, and you were unable to defrost/cook them on your own.  So you got the step-stool, turned on the hot water in the sink, filled a bowl, and started dunking your waffles in order to heat them up.  Then, you got upset that your waffle was all gooey, and nothing short of a blast-furnace would ever make them crunchy again.  I have to give you credit for creative problem solving, but neither one of you wanted to eat them after that.

Last week, you both got up before me.  This is not uncommon, and you both know to leave me alone until 7:00AM.  On one particular morning, Lucas, you were snuggling with me in bed while I could hear Anna out in the kitchen doing who-knows-what.  I knew I needed t check, and soon, but I was also groggy and snuggling.  But what I discovered, Anna, was that you had made chocolate milk for all of us and were proud that you had not spilled any.  I did not question your assessment of pride, despite the milk over part of the counter.  What I did ask, my dear, is where you got the chocolate?

You see, I had used the very last of it the night before, and put milk into the bottle to shake out the last bits before drinking it, and left it on the counter.  So there had likely been at least some spoiled milk in the bottle by the time you used it.  Reluctantly, I had to take away the milk you had so thoughtfully prepared for each of us.  My dear, you were devastated, and thought that you had done something terribly wrong.  I told you what happened, and you cried all the more “I did not know!”

Yes, my love, you did not know, and I was grateful for your effort, but for a good half hour you were beyond consoling and said you were never going to make breakfast for us again.  For a while, that may be a good thing – at least not by surprise.  But I do hope the memory does not stick with you for the rest of your life.

You see, I remember being maybe your age when I got milk just before bed, and also had an incident with chocolate.  This was nothing so serious as Death-By-Chocolate, but it stuck with me nonetheless.  On this particular occasion, my mom poured the chocolate syrup into my glass and was stirring with a spoon, perhaps a bit too aggressively.  The glass broke, pouring its contents all over my lap and the floor, after which she screamed at me and sent me to bed with nothing.

So just for the record, dear Anna, you did nothing wrong… you were being kind and thoughtful, and it just didn’t work out right.  I should have put the empty bottle into the recycle bin and none of it would have happened.

Bowling for Dollars

My beloveds, your preschool has been closed for the past several days on account of the 4th of July holiday, and that it is “Summer break’ for the Montessori preschool. Last Thursday, grandma and grandpa took you for most of the day, Friday Mom and I were both home and we played with you. Weekends are typical, but today, Monday, was all mine with you both, and we had a balst.

You got to watch a little over an hour of TV in the morning while I worked, then we went bowling together. It’s something I recall doing with my parents and brother quite often when I was growing up, though I think I was a bit older than you two are now when we started. But of particular note to me was the competitive nature the game took on. Lucas and Anna, this is nothing new for you two. But between you having the advantage of bumpers on your game, and me being more than a bit rusty, you were both trying to beat ME. And for a good while, Lucas, you WERE beating me. Now, on a fully-automated scoring system, where you managed to throw a gutter ball on what should have been my spare, that helped, but the truth is more that I was playing horribly.

In the end, Lucas, I think you had a 74, Anna had 64, and I had 95. For first-time-ever bowling, that’s actually quite good for both of you. Unfortunately, Anna, you were quite upset that Lucas beat you at yet another physical event.

As we were leaving, you both wanted to look at and play the video games. Recall that we just recently started you on an allowance, so you did actually have some money that you could spend. My challenge was giving you the freedom to spend it, while guiding you where i thought it was frivolous. Lucas, you really wanted to spend a dollar on an immersive driving game, until I told you that it would only last about a minute or two. Indignant, you immediately recognized that a minute or two of driving was not worth a whole bucket of weeds, which is your labor-equivalent of a dollar, even if you are on allowance now. Eventually, you chose not to spend anything.

Now you, my dear Anna, had a different plan. You said “I want to spend MY money on something cuddly,” and summarily dragged me by the hand to “The Claw” – a plexiglass case full of plush toys with a moveable claw that would reach down and pick up a toy for you. The challenge for me is that I knew full well that your chances of actually retrieving the animal of your dreams were quite low. While I tried to dissuade you, I could not prohibit you from making what I believed to be a mistake. So I let you spend your money, only to see your hopes dashed when you failed to get the toy. You were both sad and upset, and asked WHY you did not get the toy. Then I told you that it was a game… that the machine wanted you to try again and again, spending more and more money before you actually got the simple toy. You became quite frustrated with yourself for making an unwise decision, and recognized for yourself that you had just “wasted $0.50 on a STUPID GAME!”

Now while you were all upset, I could not help but recognize that the 50 cents you just spent may have planted a memory in you that will end up saving you hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars later in life. Maybe. On the plus side, those seeds will grow into the foundation of being thrifty. What we still need to watch out for is that it take such root that you don’t believe you are actually deserving of what you want, for indeed you are, my love. Sometimes, however, you just need to work for it or choose wisely to get it.

On the way home, we stopped at Snapdoodle, which is a small toy store. You were both intent on buying something, but did not have much to spend yet – maybe $2 each. Lucas, you went around from toy to toy, asking “how much is this?” I could not tell where the boundary was between wondering whether you could buy it, and learning the price/value of various goods. I could not help but think that almost everything in that store was rather over-priced, but my hope is that you got to set your eyes on some things you wanted, and to recognize what you might have to save to get them.

Anna, you took a very different approach in the store. You already knew that you did not have money to buy anything you might really want, so you sat yourself down in front of the big doll-house and managed to entertain yourself in immersive play for a good half hour for free. So in this case, Lucas left slightly frustrated, whereas you managed to have a great time.

The fascinating thing for me as a parent is watching the vastly different decisions and strategies you both use as you try to get what you want. I have no idea how any of this will ultimately pan out as you both mature, but I get the pleasure of watching you both grow into the adults you will become, one decision at a time. Now THAT, my loves, is truly priceless.

The Door

Both of you have a habit of slamming doors, especially when you get angry or excited. My fear is that sooner or later, somebody is going to get a finger, hand, or even a head in between the door and the jamb when you slam it. These are not light, flimsy, inside doors. They are solid wood and weigh maybe 60 pounds. How do I know, you might ask?

Because today, dear Lucas, you and Anna were getting a little wound up, and you ran into your room and slammed it very hard. I came into your room and scolded you that we do not EVER slam doors here. And I told you as I have many times before that if you cannot treat your doors properly, then I will take them away. Not 2 minutes after I said that, you turned around and slammed your door again. I went downstairs to get some tools, and without saying a word, Anna knew exactly what I was going to do.

She told you, “Lucas! Umi is going to take your door off!” and already you got upset. So I knocked the pins out of the hinges and removed the door. That’s when I saw how very heavy these things are… and then I had to figure out where to put it. It’s so heavy, that I don’t want to leave it leaning up against anything, lest it fall over onto you.

But what I was not expecting is the extreme level of reaction that you both had in response to losing your door. I’m talking total meltdown that lasted a good 15 minutes or more, and even now, nearly an hour later, you are both pissed and angry at me, your Umi, who is a big, mean, bully!

Was taking your door off overkill? If you learn how completely serious I am about it when I demand that you not do something, then no, it’s not overkill. If you learn that when I explicitly spell out the consequences for a choice, that I will execute on that consequence, then no, it’s not overkill. For you see, my loves, what you do not appreciate is that the damage you could do to yourself or each other from slamming a door that heavy would be very serious indeed. The consequence of losing your door for a day or so is small potatoes by comparison… even if you do think I’m a mean bully for a while.

Early Independence

My dear ones, you both know that I don’t like to be awakened before 7 AM. Of late, I said that if you woke me up early, there would be no screen-time that morning. That mostly worked. There are mornings when you’ll be making lots of noise outside my room, including yelling at each other to be quiet, but you at least try.

Now, with it being summer and near the longest day of the year, Lucas, you recently asked “How come 7:00 is getting farther and farther away?” But the real challenge is not earlier daylight, as much as the fact that you start to get hungry once you wake up. For a while, I left cereal out for you, and that worked. But your favorite breakfast food is a toasted waffle. I gave you the rule that only mom and I change the dial on the toaster, and for a while, that worked.

But on this fateful morning, my loves, you ventured into the cupboard with canned goods, none of which you could open. Well, except for the Mandarin oranges, which have pull-tops, and you both love those. My concern would be the sharp edge on the lid, but on 2 of the three cans you opened, you were successful. Well, except that I noticed that the kitchen floor was wet in places, and then also quite sticky. You see, that third can posed a bit of a challenge for you. You managed to pop the top enough to break the seal, but were not able to lift the tab enough to pry the top all they way off. In your attempts, you apparently spilled quite a bit of the juice.

However, I didn’t even KNOW about the third can… I just assumed that it was the juice from one of the open cans that you each had before you. So when I rhetorically asked about the spill on the floor, you told me that it came from the one still in the cabinet. I looked, and that’s when I found the partially open can with less than half of the juice still in there.

RaccoonAnd so, my loves, while I do indeed appreciate and value you growing early independence, I could not help but recall a story from my grandma about raccoon when she lived on Sanibel Island in Florida. You see, she loved to watch those little creatures, and there was a family of them that would walk across her porch each morning. She made the mistake of leaving some marshmallows out for them, and would delight in watching the family devour them in the early morning. That is, until one morning, after weeks of having done this, Grandma forgot to leave the marshmallows out when she was sleeping in. So she was not up up to see the raccoons searching in vein for the sweet treats that had now become an entitlement. In retaliation, they took everything that they were able to carry – shoes, flip-flops, a small planter or two, and summarily destroyed them. The plants they knocked over, the shoes they chewed on and left in the back yard for the alligators, and a handful of ceramic items they broke. I suppose it was the hearing the latter that alerted grandpa to their dissatisfaction.

Now while grandma was known to spoil Darron and me rotten, she was nowhere near as understanding with the raccoons. They had eaten their last marshmallow, and grandma set up a more defensible perimeter by bringing more of her stuff inside from the porch until the young family of bandits learned to move on.

So for you, my dear ones, I just added to the list that includes “no touching the toaster dial” that canned foods are off limits for breakfast until I’m awake. We’ll see how long that works.

Fiscal Policy for 6-year-olds

You two turn 6 years old in just 10 days. So Mom and I are trying to figure out how to set you up on an allowance, and there’s just so many ways to structure one, that we’re not sure what to do yet.

You see, right now, you already know that if you want money, you work for it… most often, that means helping Mom pull weeds (you get $1 per bucket). Lucas, you already seem to have a grasp of what money is, how to get it, and that you need more if you want better toys. Anna, you appear to operate from simply not having enough, and have not yet integrated that one needs to work to get more.

But even that notion – work for reward – I know to be primitive. What really happens is that one creates or delivers value to others that is equal to or greater than what they give as a reward. A week or so back, you both got a cup, and wanted to sell me a glass of water for $1. Anna, you even wrote out a nice chart – 1 glass = $1; 2 glasses = $2. But when I said that I would not buy one, and that any time I wanted water, I could just fill my own glass, you were both disappointed. I did not want to squash your entrepreneurial spirit, but nor was I going to pay for something I already own or can get for free.

So I made a new game… I told you that I would pay you each $0.25 for a glass of water AND a nice drawing. I told you that the drawing is what made the water more valuable, and I would pay for the greater value of what you created. Next, you both wanted a piece of paper. I thought for a moment here, and decided that I would “sell” you a piece of paper for $0.05 each. You said that you did not have a nickel, so I told you I would loan it to you, and what that meant – that I was giving you something now, that you would have to pay for later. I think you only got part of the idea, but that was OK.

So then you both went to work on your drawings, and when complete, I paid you both 2 dimes and a nickel for the drawing and water. I gave the water to the plants who looked more thirsty than I was, and kept the drawings. Then I asked you about paying for the paper. You had forgotten, so I reminded you that you both bought something from me that you had not paid for, and the concept made slightly more sense then, as evidenced by neither of you fussing about having to now give-back part of what you earned. Then we put your dimes into your piggy-bank.

But now back to allowance – my concern is that if you see you start getting money “just because” that it might subtract from knowing that you work for money. Of course we can and will show you that work will supplement what you can gain, but I don’t want allowance to detract from work-ethic.

So here’s our current thinking:
You’ll each get $2/week.
From that, it will go into three “jars” – one for giving, one for saving, and one for spending.

  • Giving – this is money that you give for the benefit of others. The church. Food drives. Rice-bowls. Books for others, etc. The expectation here is that 10-15% go in here, or $0.25 from your $2/week allowance (it’s 12.5% just because the quarter is easy). Our goal hear is to present that from our earnings, we help those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
  • Savings – This is yours too. You can spend it, but only after it reaches $5, and we have to agree on what you spend it on. The point here is that for savings, you have to have a conversation first before dipping into it. These are conversations about learning and values. We don’t know what will and won’t be OK here yet… just that we talk first. On $2/week, $0.75/week goes into savings.
  • Spending – yours to spend on whatever you want, except contraband material (nothing that could produce real injury.)
    This is just an allowance – you get it every week just for being you. It is NOT tied to chores or homework. And you are also free to earn money in other ways, such as when you help Mom pull weeds, or make other arrangements for doing something that other people value. However, even for money that you earn, those go into these three “jars” too. So for just $1, that would be 0.10 in “giving”, 0.40 in savings, and 0.50 in spending.

Lastly, in the case of gifts that you receive, you can put those into whatever jar you choose.

So it occurs to me writing all this out that I’m doing two things. First is my own attempts to be crystal clear, and to write down what Mom and I both agree will work. Second is that we are laying the groundwork for your future fiscal policy with life.

After we put the above in place, I did a bit of searching online, and it turns out something like the above has some external grounding that we can draw upon.

cf.: Kid’s Allowances: Your’re Doing It All Wrong