Dollars and Sense

I’ll never forget my first real job. I’m not talking about chores around the house for allowance; I’m talking about the first time someone outside of my family hired me to do a job that I actually got paid for.

My family was living in Bird City, Kansas (a tiny town in the northwestern corner of the state) and I got “hired” to work in a little grocery store just two doors down from where my Mom worked as a teller at the First National Bank. There were two grocery stores in Bird City at the time (which was pretty incredible considering the population at the time was fewer than 500). I worked three days a week for an hour after school stocking the soda cooler. I’d organize the single cans into neat rows, and sometimes make six-packs by popping the cans into the plastic rings. I was paid $1.00, and usually spent 50 cents of it on candy before I left the store. The rest ended up in my piggy bank back home. If memory serves, I was 8-years-old.

I learned very quickly how great it felt to earn money and buy things I wanted. My parents always provided for Lindy and I, and made our lives comfortable, but there was something I enjoyed immensely about being able to watch my stash of cash grow and walk into a store to buy something that I worked hard to save up for.

I quickly graduated from stocking the soda cooler to spending my summers mowing lawns for both sets of grandparents and the neighbor lady who owned the vacant house next door, and babysitting for several families in the neighborhood. I got my first legit, let-the-government-take-half-my-paycheck-in-taxes job when I was a freshman in high school, logging 20+ hours a week at the local grocery store, Hinky Dinky, where I stocked shelves, scrubbed floors, and worked as a cashier, wearing the regulation Hinky Dinky polo and bright blue smock.

Working may not always be fun, but it is always rewarding. There’s always a sense of accomplishment and pride when you complete a task. And if you have a job that you actually enjoy, you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to earn a living and maybe even have a good time while you’re doing it.

Thankfully I married a man who shares my work ethic, and who also believes that it is important to teach our children the value of a dollar and that we live in a world where you are expected to work hard for what you want–whether that be tangible items you want to purchase from a store or more abstract goals you want to accomplish.

We started teaching this to Cadence very early. We enjoy buying things and treating her to thing we know she wants, but we are also very comfortable telling her no. She has chores she is expected to complete around the house without compensation–things like keeping her room clean, throwing her dirty laundry down the laundry chute, and taking her plate to the kitchen after meals. We feel it’s important for her to know that there are some things you just need to do without reward. Other things, like cleaning her bathroom or helping us clean up the yard, we offer her a small payment, which she promptly runs to deposit in her piggy bank.

Cadence has been saving her money for more than a year now. With the exception of a few dollars withdrawn to buy some of the cookies her Kindergarten class made for their Kids for Kids fundraiser (to help buy goats for children in Haiti), she has been quietly adding to her stash and feeling her piggy bank get heavier and heavier with the fruits of her labor (and all the extra pocket change her Papa Duane likes to give her just for being an awesome granddaughter). She finally decided she wanted to empty the bank and count her money and go treat herself to something at Toys R Us, so Stevie and I sat down with her to count all her hard-earned cash.

The one rule we have for Cadence’s money is that she also learn the importance of saving for the future. That means, any withdrawals she makes get “taxed”. Stevie takes 60% to deposit in Cadence’s college fund. The rest, she is free to spend however she wants.

So, we sat down and started, sorting all the coins, and then stacking them. By the time we finished, I think we were all a little surprised to see that Cadence had managed to squirrel away a grand total of $94.10.

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Stevie rounded up Cadence’s cut and handed over $40 for her to go shopping. When we arrived at Toys R Us, Cadence was giddy with excitement at the prospect of having so much money in her purse to pick out whatever she wanted.

Stevie took the stroller to go walk around and keep Henry occupied while Cadence and I meandered through the aisles and explored the possibilities. We looked at Barbies and dress up clothes and craft kits. We checked out some Lego kits. Cadence seemed pretty intrigued with the Lego Cinderella Castle and Avengers Tower sets, but scoffed when I told her the price.

“Those are way too expensive,” she said. “Let’s keep looking.”

She kept coming back to the My Little Pony aisle, picking up and putting down a dozen different figures and play sets until she finally decided on the My Little Pony Rainbow Kingdom Playset, with three levels of fun for the small collection of ponies she has managed to collect.

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When she found out she had enough money to buy it, she scooped up the box and beamed. She even had $10 left over, which she tells us she wants to take to school when she returns on Monday to donate to help buy another child a goat, or maybe pick out something for her little brother. She hasn’t decided just yet.

Back home, Stevie and Cadence sat down immediately to build Cadence’s new tower, and she has been playing with it non-stop ever since.

She’s already starting to fill that piggy bank back up. She’s hooked, and her daddy and I couldn’t be prouder.

And who knows, maybe one of these days she’ll take us up on the offer to help us pay the mortgage. 😉

 

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Elf on the Shelf 2015 – Day 19

It’s been a bit of a rough week. Lots of projects keeping us busy at work. Lots of activities with Cadence’s school as the year winds down for her Christmas break. Stevie’s office Christmas party on Wednesday. Tickets for Stevie and I to go see the new Star Wars movie late Thursday night. Somehow, every free moment just seemed to get filled up with something.

And then, little H-man got sick.

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, we noticed he sneezed a couple times. No big deal.

When I came home for lunch Wednesday, Mom mentioned that he’d been coughing and sneezing quite a bit, and she’d had to wipe his snotty nose a few times.

By the time I got home from work, the poor little dude was coughing, sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes miserable. Mom said she’d thought about calling me at work since he seemed to be getting worse so quickly, but she hated to bother me knowing how busy I was.

Stevie and I were supposed to go to his office’s Christmas Party at home of NU President Hank Bounds, but I couldn’t leave Henry home so miserable. I decided to stay home with the kiddos, while Stevie headed out to the party.

Cadence was crushed. She’d been looking forward to a night hanging out with her friend (and babysitter extraordinaire) Sam Bates for like a month, counting down the days on her calendar on her way to Christmas. Had the heartbreak come a day or two before, it may have given her some time to prepare, but she was hit with the bad news of Henry’s sudden illness and a total change in plans when she walked in the door from school. Poor girl couldn’t hide her disappointment, and it wasn’t long before the tears started flowing.

When we asked Cadence why she was crying, we expected her to say she was sad because Sam wasn’t coming over. Instead, she sobbed about not being able to find her My Little Pony coloring book.

I honestly didn’t even remember that she had a My Little Pony coloring book, but apparently she did and we were suddenly nearing Defcon 1 because she couldn’t locate it.

Stevie and I scoured some of the familiar spots with no luck. Eventually, he had to leave for the party, but Sam Bates saved the day by asking if she could come over and drop off some gifts and hang out for a little bit.

Thank God for Sam Bates. Seriously, I may not have survived the evening without her.

And luckily, whatever crud struck Henry ended up being relatively short-lived. He ran a low-grade fever and had a bit of congestion for a day or two, and then the illness just sort of faded away.

Friday, Cadence’s godmother, Tammy, and I got to go spend some time helping out with her class Christmas party, and then Tammy came over for her and Cadence’s annual gingerbread house building. The two had a blast as always…

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And then, late last night after Cadence finally wound down from her class-party-gingerbread-house-construction-sugar-high and fell asleep, Cosette and Leo saved the day by finding the missing My Little Pony coloring book, right where you’d expect it to be hidden in a random Rubbermaid bin in the basement.

Way to go, elves. You guys rock.

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Let Them Be Little

I watched a story on Nightline tonight that made me feel a little ill. In case you didn’t tune in, click on the link below and check it out before you continue…

Parents Spend Thousands on Test-Prep to Get Kids into ‘Gifted’ Kindergartens

Now, let me be the first to admit that I understand a parent’s desire to see her child succeed. I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve never daydreamed about Cadence’s future, that I’ve never pictured her growing up to be an amazingly successful human being. Believe me, I would be overjoyed if, someday, my little girl grows up to cure Cancer or win a Pulitzer Prize or bring a packed house to their feet in her Broadway debut. And you better believe that I am going to be there to encourage and support along the way.

What I have an issue with, a BIG issue with, is overzealous parents who heap ridiculous expectations on the shoulders of their children and rob them of their childhoods.

They’re kids, people! They’re freakin’ KIDS!

When you’re 4 years old, the biggest worries you should have is how high you can build your block tower before it falls over, and whether your Mom will let you have some chocolate milk with lunch. There is not a 4-year-old in the world that needs to spend several hours a week with a tutor preparing for a test. Kids learn by playing. They learn by experiencing the world around them through their five senses, by exploring and moving and interacting and letting their imaginations soar.

They learn by being allowed to be kids.

The way I see it, “gifted” children are children who have a passion for learning. They are children who hunger for knowledge, and who will go above and beyond to master a new skill or acquire a better understanding of the task at hand. They see learning as an exciting opportunity instead of as a chore. And how can parents foster that in their children? By encouraging them, supporting them, uplifting them, helping them, paying attention to them, teaching them, listening to them, interacting with them, challenging them, believing in them, and, most importantly, by allowing them to grow and develop and just be kids.

There’s plenty of time for the adult stuff later.

My daughter turned 2 in February, and I’ve never tried to force her to sit and learn anything. Lord knows, I’d probably have to tie her to a chair to get her to sit still for more than five minutes at a time, and honestly, I don’t see the point in trying to force her to sit down for any sort of “lesson” at her age. Even so, Cadence has learned to count. She’s mastered all the way up to 13 and adding more numbers all the time. She can identify several colors, and can identify all the letters of the alphabet. She’s obsessed with the alphabet, shouting out letters wherever she sees them–on t-shirts, license plates, and TV. Sometimes she’ll get one wrong, and she’ll say “No” and shake her head and correct herself without Steven and I ever saying a word.

We’re amazed at how quickly she’s learning, but we know that it’s because Cadence thinks it’s really fun. It’s a game to her. She loves shouting out the numbers when the judges on Dancing with the Stars give their scores, or when the bids on Storage Wars are climbing. She laughs when she hollers out the correct color M&M we reward her with when she goes pee-pee on the potty. And she beams with pride when we applaud her for correctly identifying all of the letters on the page in one of her storybooks.

Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert here by any means, but I do believe that the most important lesson that Cadence is learning right now is that learning is fun. She doesn’t need to be entertained by a crazy circus sideshow of “educational programming” (aka annoying TV shows marketed to children) or coddled or forced to sit and memorize. And she certainly doesn’t need us to spend thousands of dollars so she can spend weekends with a toddler tutor. She just needs our time, our attention, our patience, and, every so often, a little nudging in the right direction.

And what our educational system needs is a complete freakin’ overhaul, but that, my friends, is another post for another time. I’ve already written a few posts about it, so feel free to check those out…

The Mis-Education of America

All Play and No Work Makes Jack a Dumb Boy

Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait for my next education-themed rant. But, in the meantime, do me a favor and take a moment to play with your kids. You just might be surprised at what you learn from the experience.

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