I have a kid who loves to spend. What was I to do when he wanted to blow his whole allowance on me?
He begged me day after day last week. He begged me over the weekend. He begged and begged and finally I relented.
I took Orange to the thrift store.
'Cause he's seven years old and he has five dollars burning a hole in his pocket and the last time we went to the thrift store (two months ago) he saw a Nerf gun and it's calling his name; for all of the above reasons, I loaded up all the kids and took them to that land of dreams, that island of delight in the middle of a not-so-great part of town, the thrift store.
We waded into the melee: a crush of people pawing through used clothes and toasters and moth-ball scented furniture. And we made for the very back corner where I scanned the game shelf with one eyeball and kept the other one on my kids darting like pinballs in a machine from one toy to the next.
It turned out that - surprise, surprise - the Nerf gun wasn't there anymore and while he toyed with the idea of getting a skateboard, he ultimately put it back and waited in the long line in front of the register (It turns out I'm glad I came because there were three games from my Amazon wish list available for pennies on the dollar).
While we were waiting, Orange's eyes wandered over to the jewelry stand. You've been to a thrift store. You know the jewelry stand: loaded down with baubles flashy and gaudy, with pieces that mimics haute couture once-upon-a-1970s-time. Orange was drawn to the display like a moth to a flame and I could see it on his face - pure amazement.
We've been learning about gemstones as part of our study of the elements. Orange mined for his own crystals, and watched videos about how gems are formed, mined, cut. As he fingered the costume pieces I knew what was going through his mind:
I stepped forward in line. Our turn at the register next. Orange looked over at me and held up a necklace, beaming broadly.
There was a brief mental scramble: What would a good parent do? Encourage him to save his money? To envision a goal and forgo all other expenditures in pursuit of that? Or just smile and say thank you?
I went with my gut. I smiled back at him and put my hand to my chest - For me? He nodded, like - Yep. Gonna make all your dreams come true, baby. And he butted in front of me in line and marched up to the cashier and bought me the necklace and when we were outside, he made me crouch down so he could put it on me himself. I had a moment there on the pavement - keeping a hawk-eye on our sketchy surroundings and holding my breath at the strong smell of urine fumes percolating in the high humidity - I remembered that Orange's name means gift. It's as intrinsic to him as the freckles sprayed across his nose and his knobby knees.
It's so easy to measure our kids' attributes against the flip-side ones. My kid is so loud and bubbly. He doesn't know how to be quiet! My kid is so lazy. He doesn't know how to get out there and compete!
Or, maybe the other way... My kid is so reserved. He can't just break loose and express himself. My kid is so competitive. He can't just go with the flow and enjoy the game.
In the work of trying to cultivate my kids' into growing into balanced human beings, I find that I sometimes get wrapped up in correcting the areas that are lacking and forgetting to celebrate the advantages they already have. I tend to get into a panic when I picture the thousand and one ways he could get into trouble by not being more protective of his money, by living so much in the now and not considering the future. Some people struggle to give; they have to fight against an inner urge to grab and protect. Not Orange. He'll have to learn to be thrifty, to consider the future, to consider each investment wisely. But he won't struggle when called on to give.
So, I straightened up. I adjusted the necklace. I preened to Orange's great delight. And I thought of a thousand and one ways that he has so much going for him: his ability to be confident that he earned money before and he can earn it again, his willingness to spend all his money on a smile for Mama, his ability to live fully in now.