Wednesday, May 02, 2007

That'll Be 10 Cents Per Page

Just yesterday I saw that my 7yo, Dulce, and my 4yo, Alejandrita (alay-hon-dri-ta), were playing "mail delivery" with each other. I pondered, "What are they using for mail?"

We don't own a computer printer, but I buy a ream of paper (500 sheets) for them to draw on. Each drawing gets numbered and put into their folders so they can see their own progression (as well as me).

I found that they were using the white copy paper. I smiled and said "Okay, but I have to warn you, Dulce, you owe me 10 cents for every page."

She paused.

"500 sheets of paper costs money, sweetie. That's why we don't bother to have a printer - the cost of ink plus paper makes it better just to read the computer screen."

Dulce said "But my mommy took all my money."

Maria, my 10yo, added a clarification "That's because you left it in your pockets."

House rule: any money left uncared for is claimed by the finder - hence why dad never has any money on his person - but that works both ways.

I said "Then you'll have to do some chores to earn some money to pay me back." I started counting folded paper with scribbles on it, and Maria said "I'm not getting you out of this one, Dulce."

I counted up 32 sheets of paper. The cost of her expending resources for fun visibly sank into her. "I'm going to have to work for a whole day to earn that (bit exaggeration, but close)." she said.

"Okay." I said. "You can use more paper if you want, but that'll cost you. I give you the paper for free because I want to see your drawings and creative work, or school work."

My girls have plenty of games that don't involve wasting anything - it was a perfect opportunity to...

  1. Make sure the paper isn't wasted.
  2. Teach my little girls the value of things they see as magically replenish able.
Maria has saved up enough money to buy that much paper 10 times over - somewhere around $50 - but she immediately clarified for her 7yo sister that she wasn't going to bail her out of her own problem, whereas I've seen Maria buy Dulce a $20 toy before, so I knew it wasn't selfishness, but rather Maria knew Dulce had created her own problem, and she's learned the hard way that solving her sisters' problems for them only makes them do it again.

I thought Dulce had $8 but, apparently, she left it somewhere and her mother found it. My wife will really keep it, too - treats herself to a thrift store. And these girls don't get an allowance, any money they have is either earned or, less likely, found in my pockets.

It might sound hard but - my 10yo went through the same process. Now she doesn't lose her money and doesn't spend it quickly or frivolously, either.

At any rate - play with my kids, I tickle them, rough-house, chase them around, have them all try to wrestle me to the ground (my hamstrings are a favored target), and even my 10yo girl isn't embarrassed to sit in my lap and talk an hour away, though sometimes I have to ask her to shift her weight to some other part of my lap that still has blood circulation.

It's great to know I'm on the right train track. I run into too many parents these days who act shocked that we make our children work - and I keep wondering "What do you think they are going to do when they become teenagers? Magically become hard workers who handle things for themselves one day?"

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