Rollie has this piggy bank on his dresser. He's had it since he was born, and every time Jeff or I have extra change, we slip it inside the piggy bank (and until we start a 529 for him, this will also be his main source of college funds...well, that and the full academic/soccer/trumpet/pottery scholarship he will also get...to Yale).
Lately, Rollie's been accessing his college funds by way of climbing onto his dresser and removing the piggy bank from its perch beside his Dusty Rhodes bobblehead doll (I know...I don't know who that is either, but it was a free giveaway at a minor league baseball game last year. This is why we are running out of space in our house and our garden tub sometimes doubles as a guest bed: random chotchkies like bobblehead dolls, happy meal toys and stuffed animals that procreate like dirty laundry).
What Rollie garners from his piggy bank he puts inside a little wallet shaped like a tiger's face--another free chotchkie from our grocery store--and comes to me announcing that he has enough money to buy something at Target. And that's when Rollie gets a little lesson in economics (at least I think it would be in economics....what little I remember from that class is largely overshadowed by the distracting bionic nipples my high school economics had. They poked through the five undershirts he wore, sometimes scraping along the blackboard like hard, hairy fingernails as he wrote).
Rollie: Momma, can we go to Target? I want to buy something.
Me: With what, your good looks?
Rollie: I have lots of money, see? He jingles his tiger wallet in my face.
Me: Oooo...how much ya got in there?
Rollie: Um...probably forty-seven dollars.
Me: In change? I'm not sure about that, bud.
Rollie: Well, maybe I have eleven.
Me: That's quite a disparity. Want me to help you count it?
Rollie obligingly dumps out his earnings and together we count out the change.
Rollie: See, Momma, I have eleven.
Me: Rollie, you have sixty-two cents.
Rollie: Is that a lot?
Me: Not really.
Rollie: ...How much is a lot?
Me: Well, it depends....
Rollie: Is eleven a lot?
Me: ...It's a lot of like, cockroaches. It's not really a lot of money....
Rollie: ...Is seventy a lot?
Me: Yes. That would be a lot. Unless you wanted to buy a car or something.
Rollie: ...What can I buy with this?
Me: Um...I can't think of anything that only costs sixty-two cents at Target.
Rollie: ...Can I have some more money? Can I have seventy dollars?
Me: No, but let's see if we can find you some more quarters.
We pillaged his piggy bank and managed to dig up about $10 in quarters. Not bad for a kid whose main source of income is what he finds in parking lots and beside vending machines.
And with Rollie's tiger wallet stuffed to the whiskers in change, we headed through the drizzle to Target.
Ah, Target. Where would a Stay-At-Home mom be without Target? That beautiful red and white bullseye is nothing if not hypnotic; a zen-like calm overcomes me every time I see it glowing through the gloom, as visions of disinfectant wipes, paper towels in bulk and Easter candy wipe my troubles clean away. Target is my refuge, my go-to place in times of turmoil or on days when the weather is crappy, the kids are driving me nuts and a perfect 20-minute drive followed by an hour of wandering up and down the tidy, pleasantly-arranged aisles cures all ills.
I follow Elsa and Rollie around the toy section, commenting on the various toys they admire and test while I sneak sips of their Icees and check my email. Everything is serene. Everyone is happy. Oooolllmmmmmm.....
We get to the aisle with the toys from Cars, and Rollie's second lesson in nip--I mean economics begins:
Rollie: What can I buy here?
Me: Well, you can have any of those cars up there, or these here. Or, you can get a couple of little things.
Rollie: Okay...I want to get this one. He selects a giant semi-trailer, it's grill grinning out from the extensive packaging.
Me: Um...not that one. That one is thirty dollars. You only have ten, remember?
Rollie: But do you have thirty dollars?
Me: Rollie, I have even less money than you do right now.
Rollie: Okay...how about this one? He points to a box of cars from the movie, also overpriced and overpackaged.
Me: Don't you already have all these cars?
Rollie: But these ones are super shiny.
Me: Well if you'd stop playing Smash 'Em with your cars, they'd stay shiny, too.
Rollie: Can I please have these?
Me: Rollie, they cost more money then you have. You can spend ten dollars. Or you don't even have to spend it all--you can save some of it for later, until you have more to buy what you really want.
Rollie: No, I want to spend it now. What can I get?
Me: I told you, hon--any of these right here. Or we can look at Star Wars stuff, too.
Rollie: No. I just want Cars stuff.
Me: Okay, well...try to decide. I follow Elsa down the aisle, where she has become enamored with this awful talking garbage truck that tells jokes, moves, and, God help me...farts. Where oh where are we headed as a nation when toys like a flatulating garbage truck turn into something kids actually want and parents will actually fork over the fifty dollars for?*
Then I hear Rollie mumble from up the aisle:
Rollie: I can't decide what I want.
Me: Maybe you should just get something small and save the rest of your money.
He doesn't answer, but wanders over to where Elsa is staring fixedly on Stinky the Garbage Truck.
Rollie: Can I buy that?
Me: Absolutely not. I don't think I would let you even if you had enough money.
Rollie: Why not?
Me: Because he's loud and obnoxious. I could only imagine life with Stinky the Garbage Truck in our house.... it would be like living with a bachelor uncle who stays in the basement and is trying to get a stand-up career off the ground. Kinda like Uncle Joey from Full House, only with better punchlines.
Rollie: Why is he obnoxious?
Me: ...So did you decide what you wanted to get?
Rollie: Well...if I can't get the garbage truck...and I can't get those cars...I guess I'll just have this. He picks up a remote controlled speedboat, also out of his price range, and hands it to me.
Me: Rollie, this stuff you can ask for for your birthday. But right now you can't afford this.
Rollie: But I really want it.
Me: I understand. That's part of life honey--you've just got to pick out what you can pay for today. Or start saving your money for later.
Me: Maybe you can start doing chores around the house and earning money that way.
Rollie: What are chores?
Me: Like cleaning your room. And putting your clothes in the laundry.
Rollie: I put my jammies in the laundry yesterday. Can I have some money?
Me: Well, that's not quite what I was thinking....plus I don't have any money.
Rollie wanders back to where the Cars stuff is. His eyes scan the multitude of brightly colored boxes and labels and prices he can't yet read. I wonder if any of this is sinking in, or if this is just a lesson for me to start taking my kids to the library on rainy days.
Finally he selects a race car that he doesn't yet have from the movie.
Rollie: Can I have this one?
Me: Yes, you can. You sure this is what you want?
Rollie: Yes. Do I have enough money?
Me: Yep. And you'll have some leftover, too
Rollie: Okay....Can we go to the mall?
Today is another rainy day. Thankfully, Rollie has school, and his college fund has been depleted to a bunch of pennies, nickels, and souvenir daubloons from the Fountain of Youth. It will take a while for him to earn enough money to buy Stinky The Garbage Truck; by then another loud, obnoxious toy will probably have taken its place. Like a life-size David Coulier doll that comes with over a hundred catch phrases. "Cut It Out!"
*I just read online that Stinky The Garbage Truck also eats little Matchbox cars and poops them out. I suppose they are the source of his terrible gas. I can't make this stuff up, folks.