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.