five years, nine months, and eleven (and twelve) days

This weekend was epic for The Family. And I mean “epic” in that mundane, internet age sense in which events come in two varieties: 1) epic, and 2) lame. Given that neither of the two events was particularly uncool, I have unilaterally decided as mayor of Kidlingville that they were epic. If you’ve got a problem with that, then you can take it up with the boss, Queen Kidling. She’s magnanimous, but don’t push your luck.

On Saturday, The Kidling spent her own money for the first time in five years, nine months, and eleven days.

On Sunday, she competed in her very first road race.

The former is significant because The Kidling, master of instant gratification and expert in now-Now-NOW, has saved every penny she has been gifted or earned in her wee life for one thing: a trip to Africa. Yes, really. Whenever someone gives her a dollar, she mentions lions. When The Mama doles out allowance on Sundays, there is talk of the African Savannah. And when she finds a penny–yes, a penny–on the ground, she clutches it in her white-knuckled fist until it can be safely deposited in one of her piggy banks, talking all the while of giraffes and elephants.

Thoughtful kidlingville readers surely recognize the competing concerns involved here. On one hand, The Kidling is learning patience, planning, prioritizing with limited resources, delayed gratification, the joy of anticipation, and, and, and… I could go on, but you get it, right? Saving = Good.

So I will go to that pesky other hand. The problem comes when a child saves to the exclusion of all other alternatives. How can The Kidling learn the value of money when she has no sense of what things actually cost? When she has no point of comparison other than the elusive $7000 safari for which she would spend her entire childhood saving… and that’s assuming she would get a decent job in high school to earn some real dollars, because The Family is pretty stingy with allowance funds.

Don’t judge: You would be too if you still had four of five degrees to pay for.

As I was saying: kids and saving theory. In order to help The Kidling gain some practical knowledge of the value of money, I gently remind her that she has money to spend when she asks for something and I tell her no. Although she has seriously considered buying things, when it comes down to it, she always declines when it is her money.


All of this history accompanied us to our local bookseller on Saturday. We had had a terrific morning and we hadn’t been there in several weeks. What better time to have a treat and pick out a new book? I submit there is none.

The Kidling in a bookstore is like a kid in a candy shop, minus the sugar and plus some paper. Otherwise, precisely the same. She looked at book after book before narrowing it down to several that she was really excited about. She asked whether she could have two, and I–wicked Mama that I am–declined.

“Just one today!” I told her.

She pouted. I remained steadfast.

Then I remembered the stash o’ cash.

“You know, Sweetie,” I began, “you could always buy the other book with your own money.”

She gave me the what-on-earth-are-you-talking-about-I’m-five-I-don’t-have-my-own-money-oh-wait-yes-I-do look. Then her eyes brightened.

“Yeah!” She said. And I’ll be damned if this child o’ mine didn’t spend nine whole dollars of her very own money on a classic book.

The latter–

Did you forget that this was a two-part story? Yeah, me too. Sorry…

The latter was important because, sheesh, every kid’s first race is important! It is doubly important when said kid is sick as a dog and asks to participate anyway because it is a run to benefit the local schools and she doesn’t quite understand that we already paid the race fee to benefit the schools and no one gives a damn if we actually run. But hey, if she wants to follow through with a commitment that isn’t going to cause her any serious harm, then who am I to say no?

A damn fool. I would be a damn fool to say no. Besides, this would give her a taste of what The Mama and The Dada like to do for exercise. Don’t get me wrong: The Kidling sprints everywhere. Always. And she is fa-ast. Yes, two syllables fast. But she doesn’t do the “conserve your effort to go further” thing.

So Sunday was a big deal. She took off at the start line at full speed and raced up the first hill.  Holding my hand. I tried to explain how much easier it would be if she had both arms to swing, but she refused. And I am glad she did because it was the damn sweetest thing you’ve ever seen. Just as my heart was about to explode with love, The Kidling exploded with coughs.

So we walked.

In the end, The Kidling’s first “run” was a run/run faster/sprint/walk/walk really freaking slowly/jog/walk/damn near crawl/walk/power walk. At mile 0.75, she turned to me and said, “Races are harder than they look. I didn’t know that before I did one!”

So it occurred to me that she found two things that don’t get much easier with time: spending your own money, and running. But they do get a helluva lot more fun. And you get to celebrate with a Bloody Mary.

Cheers, Kidling!

on saving… or not

Last week during the blog-cation that wasn’t, The Family made a trip to the mall to shop for new toys. Not for The Kidling; rather, for The Parents. You see, we still have flip phones, and it seemed about time to enter the 2000s… unfashionably late.

Alice put up with a lot on that outing. We went after pre-school and before dinner. That’s right, sometimes The Parents like to play with fire. On this particular evening, we managed not to get burned. Trust that we know we lead very charmed lives.

As a sign of appreciation for her ridiculously patient behavior, we gave Alice four quarters to ride one of the little rides near our mall’s food court. Oh yes, The Parents are magnanimous. Alice circled the area several times before choosing a race car. Face filled with expectation, she sat down− and then stopped.

“I want to put these in my piggy bank,” Alice declared.

Hiding my shock, I told her, “You may, Alice. You get to choose.”

“Can I have four more?” she inquired.

“No, just these four,” I told her. “You may choose whether to ride or save them for your piggy bank.”

As you might have guessed, several moments passed as The Kidling paused to consider her options. Alice is never quick to make her decisions. Ever. Even when the decision is as inconsequential as yogurt vs. cereal for breakfast, Dr. Seuss vs. Highlights magazine at story time, PBS Kids vs. Milo and Otis, or… any decision she has made in her 4.8 years. There are worse things than having a thoughtful child.

Still pausing, dear reader? That should be enough. We’ll carry on now.

“Okay, I’ll ride,” Alice decided. “And if I get four more, just because I’m special, can I put those in my piggy bank?”

Indeed. After thorough consideration, of course.

chipping in

The Kidling has a piggy bank full of pennies. The Family uses pennies as place markers as she works toward rewards (i.e. bribes) for good behavior at dinner time. As you might have learned yesterday, she really needs it.  So, we’ve been talking about what she will do with those pennies: spending… saving…

Hmm. I guess those are the only options.

Anyway, Alice wanted to talk about her money yesterday. Her idea?

Alice: Since we’re all one big family, can I pay the bills?

The Mama: Oh sweetie, that is very generous. But you are a kid, and when you are kid, you get to be taken care of. Mom and Dad are responsible for paying the bills. You should use the money in your piggy bank for yourself. You can buy a toy, or a gift for a friend… or you can save for college. College is very expensive.

Alice: Mom, you can pay the bills, every single one, but when I grow up, I want to use my money to go to Africa. Okay?