Something I’ve been desperately trying to teach my oldest child is the value of a dollar.
I’ve struggled for years with her even-stevens mentality. Unfortunately my son’s birthday comes before hers and she keeps a mental checklist of just how much cash she got vs. him. She also pays attention to the money we spend on his birthday/Christmas gifts vs. hers.
On Black Friday, I took her shopping for some clothes/shoes for her birthday which would be in addition to the gift she gets on her actual birthday, this Friday. The problem with this is she knows exactly how much those clothes cost. It didn’t matter that everything she picked was marked down by half, but had an original market value of $100. I didn’t spend $100 and so its value isn’t worth $100.
She doesn’t know what else she’ll be getting from us, but in her mind, it had better equal $150 because she also knows just how much Rock Band (her brother’s birthday gift) costs in the stores. Nevermind that she plays the game more than he does, or that as I said, her clothing was originally valued at $100.
At the mall that evening, she was unhappy with me for not just throwing money at her so she could spend like the wind. Her birthday was coming after all! There was much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and general brattiness.
That night at home, the house was quiet, Jason was delivering Caitlin’s friends home, and it was just me and Caitlin. I decided to have a talk with her about money and the value of an item. I threw this out:
Let’s say we spent $500 on your brother. And then your birthday comes and we spend $5 on you. But this $5 item is something you desperately wanted. It was the perfect gift for you because it’s something you honestly wanted. Now let’s say instead we spend $500 on completely useless junk. Wouldn’t you rather have a $5 item that you truly wanted than $500 on something you have no use for? So those clothes that “only” cost $50 were valued at $100. Just because I’m a good bargain hunter doesn’t make it any less desirable.
She thought about that for a while, and seemed to understand what I was talking about. It was sinking in.
Her other birthday gift has a retail value of around $180, but am I spending that? No, because I’m getting a great deal on it. Does that make it worth less simply because I’m not spending the full retail value? No. Of course I don’t plan to announce what it did cost so she’ll never really know how much we spent on her gift.
I don’t know how long she’ll think about our conversation, or if it did any good. I don’t know if she’ll be counting her birthday dollars and have her mental calculation of just how much more or less she got than her brother. I just know I can’t have another blow out over gifts. If we do, that’ll be the end of it. I’m donating her to charity! Ok, maybe not, but maybe I’ll just spend her alloted gift funds on her brother and sister, or maybe I’ll donate the cash to charity. I’ll make a big deal out of it just to show her what a mean mom I can be when necessary.
In case you were wondering, No. No, my son doesn’t have the same mentality. At least not in the open. He doesn’t really care what he gets or how much it was as long as it’s something he finds enjoyable.
Thank goodness for that.