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!

the magical mr. j

We had a phenomenal weekend. A whole lot of nothing happened, but in the middle of nothing, there was magic. It all started in my dear friend’s clothing store, where The Kidling had a melt-down of epic proportions.

Stay with me here. No one said magic was easy.

You see, The Mama and Sigrid decided to go shopping at our mutual friend’s high-end boutique. I love this, because I justify each and every purchase with the fact that I am contributing to her children’s college funds. Sigrid and I were accompanied on this trip by her 2.5 year-old daughter Aya and The Kidling.

Bad move. The Kidling–being an only–and Aya–being, well, two–have a tendency to bicker. They adore one another, but actually being together can be a bit much.

We’ve all had those relationships.

The girls got along famously for entire minutes before things got dicey. Thankfully Sigrid and I have different shopping styles, so we alternated in and out of dressing rooms while Aya and The Kidling played with pretend pearls and other delightful kid-friendly treasures on the carpet by the dressing room doors. We were able to maintain something that resembled peace for quite some time before someone lost it. Nope, not the two year-old.

The Kidling.

To be fair, Aya crossed the line: she touched a toy that the girls only had eight of. How dare she?! Surely she understood that The Kidling needed every single one in order to complete her project (yes, a sushi restaurant. Say it with me now: y-u-p-p-i-e-s)! The audacity of a two year-old child! Don’t her parents teach her about manners?! Can’t she wait her turn?! Why doesn’t she understand–

Ahem. Sorry. I need to reclaim the keyboard from The Kidling, who apparently learned to read and write multi-syllabic words at some point in the last paragraph.

As I was saying, Aya touched a toy and The Kidling let out a blood-curdling whine. We hightailed it out to the entry and had a serious talk. She’s little, blah blah… You have to share, blah blah… What would have been a better choice, blah blah… After listening to me blather on about her choices, The Kidling was distracted by something shiny.

It happens to the best of us.

When she walked over to the glimmer and discovered it was a penny, she snatched it up with delight. All money is the same to The Kidling, and all money is saved for the express purpose of a trip to a distant continent.

Money is travel → travel is adventure → adventure is exciting → money is exciting.

We made our way back into the store, finished our shopping (after apologizing to the patient shopgirls), and headed around the corner for lunch at her favorite restaurant. It was late–nearly 3:00 pm–and we were surprised to find my sister-in-law, Mama³, with her business partner and assorted family. It was a delightful surprise. We chatted for a bit before excusing ourselves to sit down and order lunch.

Because The Kidling had been playing on the floor with community toys for over an hour, we decided to make a trip to the restroom for a quick scrub. When we returned to the table, The Kidling must have had déjà vu, because she spotted a penny on our table.

A second penny.

The Kidling was speechless. I told her I had no idea where it had come from, because, well… I had no idea where it had come from. I had my suspicions, and Mama³ was at the top of my list. We talked about the options: the server, magic, the hostess, Mama³… but our discussions were inconclusive. She could hardly believe her luck, telling me, “I just didn’t know this could happen in my life!” 

As we talked, Mama³ and her entourage left. Shortly thereafter, our food arrived. I moved her plate out of arm’s reach so I could dish some steaming mac & cheese onto a second plate when we discovered a third penny beneath the plate’s rim.

“It couldn’t have been the girls! They couldn’t have given me the three-ith one.”

We discussed the remaining options. It wasn’t Mama³. The Kidling assured me that magic was out of the running, as her friend told her it isn’t real. She decided it had to be our server, informing me that “that’s the one my hypothesis is on now.”

As we walked through the details, The Kidling insisted her conclusion must be accurate: “I don’t know how it could happen, UNLESS my hypothesis is right.”

We talked, we ate, we talked, we ate, we talked… Finally, lunch was over. It was late and The Kidling was starving, so we ordered dessert. When the mango sorbet arrived at the table, The Kidling searched everywhere for another penny.


“He forgot again!” she exclaimed.

“What makes you think it was him?” I asked.

“Maybe it was the other gentleman,” she conceded.

The Kidling consumed the vast majority of her dessert before I put the brakes on further sugar consumption and sent her away to wash her hands. While she was away our server, Mr. J, walked by. I thanked him for making lunch so much fun for a tired, shopped-out kidling. Mr. J asked if it would be too obvious if he hid another coin beneath her water glass. At that point, we couldn’t have made it any more obvious, so he went for it.

The Kidling returned, and I suggested she take one last drink of her water before we left. She picked up her glass, took a drink, and gasped when she spotted the final prize, a quarter, on the table.

Now she knew.

We packed up our things, grabbed her booty, and headed for the door. As The Kidling walked by Mr. J, she gave a huge smile and told him goodbye.

While The Kidling might have been convinced by her friend’s insistence that magic isn’t real, I am not so easily persuaded. What I saw during lunch was real. And it was magic.