A Box of Lessons

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In my previous post I spoke of the Target habit I started with my son. In order to keep my sanity on shopping trips, I started the bad habit of allowing Andrew to get a small toy each time we ran an errand.  As he got older, I did my best to explain that the toy had to be under $5 or $1 or whatever I felt appropriate. Recently, I have begun to explain to him the value of money. I have found myself telling him quite often now that mommy can’t buy him a toy because I just don’t have the money.

Last week, as I walked Andrew into preschool, the orange boxes for collecting for UNICEF were sitting on a table. Andrew asked, “Mommy, what are those?” I explained, “Those are to collect money for people who don’t have a lot of money.” Andrew thought for a second and replied, “You mean like you mommy?” I smiled, laughed a little, and was actually kind of happy that my lesson had sunk in. I guess I had told him enough that mommy didn’t have a lot of money to spend on toys.

Yesterday, Andrew and I were driving home from a day at the in-laws. After a stop at the gas station, we waited at a red light next to a man sitting in the grass. Next to him was a sign: “Homeless. Help if you can.” Andrew observantly asked, “Mommy, what does that say?” I immediately thought of the little orange boxes and answered, “Do you remember how I told you about those little orange boxes that are used to collect money for people who don’t have much? That man doesn’t have much money. He has a lot less money than we do. In fact, he can’t afford to have a home. His sign is telling us that he needs help.” Andrew continued to ask where the man lived. When I tried to reiterate that he didn’t have a home, Andrew insisted that his home was just really far away. I guess he is just too young to understand.

I am not sure Andrew learned a lesson in that moment, but I know that I did. I laughed and felt some pride when Andrew retorted that the little orange boxes were for people like me. It was cute and funny, but I needed a reminder that it just wasn’t true. We can afford a home and electricity and food and clothes and sometimes, even toys. Yes, I want Andrew to know that we can’t afford to buy him toys all the time. I want him to understand the value of a dollar and I want him to know how hard his teacher parents work to support him. However, I also want him to know that he is very lucky. So, this Halloween as my  little Spiderman collects candy, he will also be collecting coins in that little orange box.

From Target to Tag Sales

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Before I went back to work full time after having my son, one of the outings I made to keep my sanity was going to Target. We all need to get out of the house, and I quickly learned that my son actually enjoyed this trip. Sweet! Mom gets to shop and Andrew is quiet and entertained. Ahhhh….a coffee and chocolate milk from the Target Starbucks and we were content for a good hour of shopping.

It wasn’t until Andrew started talking that I realized that these weekly trips were a problem. That is when I’d say, “Hey Andrew, what would you like to do today?” He would quickly reply, “Target!” Okay, it was cute and all that he had inherited my love of Target, but once he was old enough to realize that Target sells more than chocolate milk and coffee, I was in trouble. It’s bad enough that almost no human being on Earth can get out of Target spending under $100, but after Andrew’s realization that Target had a large toy section, I had to put an end to our weekly trips.

The real problem is that I like buying toys almost as much as Andrew.  Let’s be honest, toys keep kids busy. I think anything that keeps my son busy and means I don’t have to entertain him is worth every penny. But the realist in me knows that in order to afford preschool, I can’t buy these little treasures regularly.

Now (three paragraphs later) I get to the point of this post. I have found a solution. Tag sales! Or garage sales, yard sales….whatever they are called in your neck of the words. Actually I think I really confuse people here in FL calling them tag sales. But growing up in MA, tag sales are like grinders…it’s just hard for me to call them something else. Two weekends ago we got an awesome roaring T-Rex for 75 cents. Today we scored a big truck that carries matchbox cars and a Captain America costume for a grand total of $3.  Not only am I totally psyched to get a great deal, but my 3 year old really does not know the difference between new and “gently used.” He likes his $2 costume as much as the new  one that sells for $20. Plus, scouring the online newspaper on Friday for sales that list TOYS and hopping in the car on Sat. morning is fun! Giving the new toys a “bath” when we get home kills even more time 😉

Moms, put your pride aside and channel your inner bargaining diva and get out there next weekend. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be addicted in no time and you won’t have to worry about dropping $100 at Target.