Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kid Stuff: Fiscal Responsibility

Over the weekend, Parker announced that he could not continue to sponge off of his parents forever.  "Sooner or later, I'm going to need to get a job, so that I can get some money - you know, to buy a house, and furniture, and plants to put in front of the house."  (Observant boy that he is, Parker recognizes that putting plants in front of the house is an important part of being an adult - well, from Mom's perspective.  Dad could take or leave them, I'm sure.  If I were a betting girl, I would say that Dad's precise view on plant would be:  "Curb appeal, shmurb appeal.  It's not like we're putting the place on the market."  But I digress.  This post is not about my spouse's ambivalent feelings toward landscaping projects.  Although I'm confident that there will be a post on that before the summer is over.)

This pleased me, because Big Brother, whose early years were characterized by a Trump-ian grasp of all things fiscal, appears recently to have given The Donald the ol' heave-ho as financial role model.  In The Donald's place:  a crackhead (not a specific one, just a garden-variety crackhead).

"Mom, MOM.  You NEED to talk to Dad.  Free Realms [online "Dungeons and Dragons-minus-the violence" geek gaming site for kids] just launched this new VIP program, and if you and Dad could just give me an advance on my allowance . . . ."

"DON'T say, 'I'll never ask you for any money again.'"

"Okay, I won't say it.  But Mom, MOM . . . ."

"Connor, didn't we buy you guys a lifetime Free Realms membership - precisely so that we could stop having these conversations?"

"Yeah, but this is different."

"Because we bought you a basic membership, and now you want to be a VIP?"

"No, we're already VIPs, but as VIPs we have the opportunity to buy other stuff."

Wow -  what an "opportunity."  He then proceeded to catalog all of the stuff that his avatar needed - most of them animal companions.  (I have determined that Free Realms is, at its heart, a rip-off of the Webkinz concept and other online sites that center on virtual pet ownership - some clever marketer just realized that boys:  (1) have no use for stuffed animals, and are entirely happy to live in a virtual world; and (2) laugh at girls for wanting to tend to litters of online kittens with zero sense of irony, drawing no parallels whatsoever between computer-generated kittens and computer-generated baby phoenixes because PHOENIXES CAN BE COASED INTO BURSTING INTO FLAMES AT OPPORTUNE TIMES AND ARE THEREFORE MUCH MORE SOCIALLY USEFUL.)

"You realize, Connor, that you sound EXACTLY like a crackhead?"

"I KNOW.  It's PATHETIC.  So you'll talk to Dad, right?"

I did talk to Dad, and we agreed that the purchase would have to be delayed until a substantial portion of the buy-in was actually earned (and in the ensuing days, Free Realms launched a promotion that got you double the value of your dollars, so I hope that we learned a valuable lesson about the benefits of WAITING).   Right before the deal went down, Connor announced that Parker had agreed to pitch in some of his allowance money as well, reducing the debt portion of the purchase price.

"So you'll get X percent of the Station Cash and Parker will get the rest?"

"Um, Mom, that's not really the deal that we agreed to."

At this point, I invoked McGlinchey Family Rules of Contract Rule #5 (I don't actually know what number it is, but it's in the top ten for sure):  six year-olds technically lack the capacity to enter into contracts, and Mom and Dad retain the power to void all contracts naively entered into by trusting Little Brother.  Contract terms were reformed, and the brothers agreed to divide the spoils on a pro rata basis.

Fast forward to Easter morning.  My alarm went off before the kids woke me up to hunt for eggs and examine bunny booty.  Initially I thought that they were still asleep - but then I heard the voices.  Excited voices, but not HAPPY excited voices, like you would expect to hear if your kids had jumped the gun and gone out exploring on Easter morning before rousing Mom and giving her the opportunity to grab her camera.

These were ANGRY excited voices.  After a couple of minutes of eavesdropping, I picked up on the general gist of the argument:  Parker overspent his allotment.  Accidentally, because he didn't appreciate the distinction between two icons (one, I guess, signaling that an item cost "money" and the other identifying it as a free item).

I interrupted the fight in progress.

"Happy Easter, guys."

"Mom, MOM.  Parker used some of my Station Cash.  Without asking.  That's like stealing.  He's a THIEF.  A COMMON THIEF."

This from the kid who was all-too-happy to accept his brother's contribution but not share any of the proceeds.  Yeah, I was less than impressed by his sudden slavish adherence to the rule of law.

"Could we not talk about this now?  Did you pick up on the fact that IT'S EASTER from when I said 'Happy Easter' a few seconds ago?"

The fight continued unabated.  Dad drifted into the room and gave me the "What fresh Hell is this?" look.  Both parents threatened to suspend the Free Realms account, which cut out the chatter - but didn't stop the Big Kid from looking sullen and slamming his Easter basket down HARD, causing the contents to spill everywhere.

Much later in the day, the smoldering embers of the Free Realms argument caught a wind gust from parts unknown.  Once again, I happened upon the blaze in progress:

"FINE, CONNOR.  I'll give you your money back."
"How?  You SPENT all of your money."

"Camden has money.  I'll buy it from him."

Connor's Internal Donald, bound and gagged by The Crackhead, struggled free from the bonds of his oppressor.   "You can't BUY money, Parker.  Well, you can, but that would be stupid, because if you could buy it, you would already HAVE it.  The word that you are looking for is 'BORROW.'"

I left the room as Big Kid launched into an explanation of the concept of collateral . . . .

The Connor was back.

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