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.

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