Thursday, March 20, 2008

Money Matters

It was bedtime one night during our ski holiday when Captain Kirk shared this childhood story with the girls:

"When I was a little boy, I used buy lots of candy with my allowance. When my mom would ask if I had brushed my teeth, I would say I did, but I really hadn't."

"You told a lie?" Mighty Mouse asked, wide-eyed. Emma the Brave, considerably less awestruck by this misdemeanor, rolled on to her side and yawned.

"Yes, I told a lie. But you know what? The joke was on me, because when I went to the dentist, he found lots of cavities."

The story concluded with the Captain's yet-to-be-surpassed imitation of a dentist's drill. The moral: brush your teeth or the dentist will get you, that is, if your mother doesn't get you first. It might not be the best bedtime send-off, but his intentions were good.

The next morning Emma was atypically quiet over her bowl of Cheerios. She'd just about finished when out popped the question: "What's an allowance?"

And that is how the proverbial cat got out of the bag--not a bad cat, not even an ugly one, but one with claws, nonetheless.

I firmly believe it is within the parental domain to teach children money management. My parents--both accountants in their own rights--believed so, too, and trained me from an early age to be cash wise and debt wary. I fully intended to implement an allowance at some point, it was just a question of when. With the topic purring sedately at my feet, there was no time like the present.

A few nights later, it was decided. Emma the Brave would receive one franc per week and Madelaine, 50 centimes. We debated as to whether to give Mighty Mouse anything at all--she is only five. But practicality won out: 2 years x 52 weeks x approximately 12 purchases by older sibling = more opportunities to cry and whine than we parents were prepared to endure. Emma hasn't yet clued into the fact that she's missed out on two years potential income. When she does, I'm sure we'll hear about it. Until then, we'll enjoy relative bliss for the mere weekly price of a lolly.

So, for five weeks the girls saved their centimes in new ceramic cat banks bought especially for the occasion. For five weeks, I wrote down their deposits in their 'bank book.' For five weeks, Emma never once forgot to ask for her balance. Then, this past Monday, we needed eggs. We weren't in the store five seconds before they asked, "Can we buy a toy?"

It was a moment I didn't know I'd been waiting for. "No, I'm not going to buy a toy. But you can."

It took almost ten full minutes in the minuscule toy aisle of the Migro for them to decide. They studied price tags like they'd never done before. The decimal point threw them for a minute, but they quickly overcame.

"Look at this one."

"Cool. What about this one?"

"Nah, too expensive."

Were those angels singing?

With their planned purchases in hand, they practically floated to the check out. Emma the Brave had settled on a black Mustang GT and Mighty Mouse, in a clear act of older sibling hero worship, chose a white motorcycle with First Aid emblazoned in red on the side. At home, they paid me from their banks and we balanced the books.

All in all, it was a success...until next month or a trip to the dentist, which ever comes first.

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