Thursday, January 10, 2013

Training Up a Fiscally Responsible Child:Part II

Disaster struck late in the afternoon.  Then again, back to back days of rain + physically active children is an automatic recipe for something bad to happen. It's just a matter of when rather than if.

In the past two days alone, the farm has received eight inches of rain.  Our gravel drive has multiple rivers coursing across it, and the pond has overflowed its banks, covering most of the asphalt ribbon that connects us to civilization.

When the ground is too muddy to walk on and there's no outlet for pent up energy, the no running, no sword fighting, no rough housing, no games of 'tag-you're it,' no outside voices inside the house are rules that struggle to find followers.

It's always an accident, never on purpose, always regretted once the music stops.  They simply forget.  And in that instant, someone or something is broken, bleeding, crying, bruised, inconsolable.

This time, that someone was me.  That something was an odd-sized gold picture frame with royal blue ribbon that held a priceless memory--a hand painted (by me) invitation to our wedding set against a backdrop of red Christmas plaid from the flower girls' dresses and two hand-cut blue butterflies like the ones in the ribbon-rose bouquet mother and I had spent hours on the front porch stitching together.

My sister in law had commented on it just last week during her visit.  Now, here it was on my floor, its frame broken, not simply at the corner where it could be re-glued.

Wyatt was instantly penitent.  He was excited.  He didn't mean to.  He didn't know the picture was there.  He would buy me another one.

I sent him to his room.  Mommy needed a time out to talk with God and think first.

Fifteen minutes later, I was calm enough to go to my son, him hiding beneath a quilt of planets and stars.  I sat cross legged before him and explained how when we make mistakes and don't treat others' property with respect, we have to make them right.  And then, in the calmest voice I could muster, I matter of factly told him he would have to buy me a new picture frame with his own money...even if that meant using his birthday money."

With that news, Wyatt dove beneath his covers and began to sob in solitude, his quaking shoulders shaking the quilt that covered him.  My heart broke along with him as I slowly crossed the room to take him in my arms, hold him as he cried, tell him a story of mommy having to pay for a mistake when she was a little girl, and (most importantly) that mommy still loved and forgave him.

But I didn't relent on my punishment.

Later that night after worship at church and bath time, Wyatt was back to his normal loving, non-pouty self.  When his father's back was turned, he tiptoed downstairs to tell me he had decided he needed a job to pay for the frame.  Surprised and heart-softened, I informed him that wasn't necessary; I would take money out of his allowance each week until it was paid for.

But he was firm and had already worked out the solution in his mind.  "I want to pay it off quicker," he argued seriously.  "It'll take too long if I don't have another job....I'll ask Opa if he has a job for me to do."

That was that. He kissed me as always, said he loved me, and went up to bed.

What hours before I had thought was a disaster and worried would result in him never forgiving me had actually been a chance for my son to learn several lessons and to reason for himself a solution.

Six years old and he has already learned what some adults still haven't figured out--money is to be earned by hard work.  And when bad things happen?  Sometimes that just means you have to work a little bit harder.

(If you missed Part I of this series on training children to be responsible with money, click here).

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