I turned around and Ethan was five. He was just born so I don't know how that happened. Everyone you know says, "Enjoy them while they are young because they grow up so fast" and every study you ready says that they learn the easiest before turning five.
I'm failing miserably on both ends. I really want to enjoy my kids while they are young but when your day consists of keeping one child from flushing pretty much everything down the toilet and the other two from getting into a light saber fight that ends with someone's eye getting poked out, feeling "enjoyment" may get lost in the mix.
As for filling up your children's brains with absolutely as much as possible until they reach saturation, I'm missing the boat. Luckily for me, Ethan has taken to teaching himself things. Today was about money or "cents" as he was calling it.
E: Momomomomom. What is a cent?
K: It's a penny.
E: Dad offered me 10 cents to help him clean the car and take all the tree branches to the side of the yard. Is that a lot?
K: No. I told you not to accept that. Ugh with your father. Don't get me wrong. Ten cents is nice to have but it isn't much.
E: How about a dollar?
K: A dollar is good. A dollar is 100 cents.
E: WOW! That is a lot.
With that we went through nickels, dimes, quarters and a junk silver peso his father had given him (except I had no idea how much the junk silver peso was worth since you really don't see them in circulation these days in D.C.). Combinations of these coins and those coins. Seeing what we had left when we took some away.
I continued to drag the branches to the back as he asked me the questions. He told me he had a thousand dollars. I looked over and he had $1.25. He asked me how much more he needed for a jet.
K: What kind of jet?
E: A real plane.
K: You want to buy a plane?
E: So we can fly places. How much more do I need?
K: You could probably get something fairly nice for about $7 million more.
E: Is that a lot?
E: Dad said he would give me 10 cents. How much more would I need after that.
K: I think it's still safe to say you need about $7 million.
He walked away with a pocket full of money and a very big dream. The nice thing about five years old is that they are really good at asking all the questions they need answered.
Have more questions about your five year old? PBS Parents can help.
Summer was almost over by the time I started catching on to conversations like this:
Carter: "How much money is there?"
Madeleine: "I don't know, let me check the vault."
Carter: "Okay, just make sure you put it in the shared account."
Shared account? Vault? What's going on here?
They finally confessed they had decided to pool resources for some time (hence the "shared" account) in hopes of crossing some items off their Christmas list. Santa? Who needs Santa when we can cat sit and dog sit and bird sit our way to kid toy/game heaven a month before the elves leave the station?
A few more months of saving and scheming and working and taking every stray penny that fell on the floor, they were able to make their goal and take their ziploc bag full of dollars and bills to the store of their choosing to make a very hefty purchase.
I won't go into the details here, but the bottom line? My kids shocked the socks off me by making a grownup size acquisition on a kid size budget--and neither one of them gets an allowance. I really think the only way it was able to happen was because they kept parental involvement to an absolute minimum and did it in a way that made sense to them.
Here are a few ingredients of their success. Feel free to run these by your school-age kids to see which ideas match their own style of sibling-powered saving and spending.
Divvy up responsibilities. Madeleine did the bulk of the work, but was sometimes tempted to bail on the plan and go to the movies instead. Carter had the discipline of a drill sergeant and kept that wild-spirited Madeleine on track. Not one dollar slipped through his hands.
Spread the word. Carter asked me fifteen times a day if I had any ideas about how he could make money while Madeleine offered to dog sit anyone's dog in the neighborhood at our summer block party. Our neighbors knew if there were any little jobs appropriate for kids, ours would be into it.
Remember the mantra: Sharing now means sharing later. I asked Madeleine why she decided to go in with Carter when she clearly had more earning power. "Well," she answered. "I don't think I could have done it without Carter. Having Carter made it easier. And now we both have the same right to play on that thing. It wouldn't be as much fun if it was only mine and then Carter was bugging me to use it and I had to decide to share or not. This way it belongs to both of us." Fair enough.
Do you remember doing similar projects when you were a kid? Do you think your kids could do what you did then, now? What's your take on kids buying things for themselves?