li'l ~j. is now a babysitter.
She's had loads of experience here at home, and now has ventured out into the wide world of Watching Other People's Kids.
She's very good. (I'd hire her.)
Last weekend she had opportunity to watch (I can't use the word tend -- can't) a cute little boy for some hours, and she earned $30. Girlfriend b u r n s this money. She's set aside 10% for tithing, and other than that...it's gone to chocolate and Icees at the gas station, along with an agenda to see a movie.
Just a couple of days ago she made a list and I took her with me to the market; as soon as she had gathered everything on her list she kept searching...searching...for something else on which to spend her money.
The whole time I cringed.
"You know, you've gotten what's on your list," I reminded her. "Besides, think of the other things you'll want to buy later."
"I know, Mom, I just..." she trailed off.
"...You just want to spend it?"
"Remember, it's a good feeling to walk out of the store with money still in your pocket," I said to her as I pushed the cart to the cashier.
I paid for my items and then her order began. The girl bagging li'l ~j.'s goods commented, "She's got good taste."
"It's all her -- money from babysitting," I explained.
"Woah! My mom wanted me to give her half of my babysitting money, to save it for me, but I didn't want to. NOW I WISH SHE WOULD HAVE DONE IT! I'm in college now, and I wish I had some of that money at this point in my life, when I really need it."
"Did you hear that?" I put my arm around my daughter. "She wishes her mom would have made her save her money."
"Oh. Wow," was the answer marinated in disinterest.
I've been trying to come up with a way to have this all balance out. In some ways, I don't even care. It's like, go ahead and spend it, you'll learn about paying tax and adding up your totals, and getting a tummyache (similar to the Halloween program: just eat all the stupid candy, get it out of our house, and then I won't have to hear you fighting about it).
Tonight, though, something happened that makes it all more of a pressing issue, for me anyway (when it shouldn't be - it should be my daughter's pressing issue, so I'm going to hand it right to her):
li'l ~j. came home from playing with her friends. She had, in hand, a huge frozen slushy drink from one of the local gas stations. When she came inside she told me that she and a neighbor friend had gone together to get some treats, and that the friend said, "Remember, you owe me a dollar? Can I have it now?"
My daughter, with cash in hand and while buying things in front of her friend, answered, "No...I don't have it right now."
"Well...could I get it by this Saturday?"
"Mmmm...I don't think so."
"What about next Saturday."
So I asked my daughter, "Do you, in fact, owe her a dollar?"
"Yes," she replied, "but all I have left is my tithing money [which she hasn't yet turned in, obvs] and the money for my movie."
"If you owe her money, and you have money, you will pay her. Tomorrow you will pay her out of the money you've put aside for the movie."
"But...!" And on and on went her protests.
Then the phone rang, and it was the neighbor friend, calling to tell me the situation. I listened to her, even though I had just heard the story, and assured her that she would get her money tomorrow. li'l ~j., hearing my side of the conversation, rolled her eyes to The High Heavens which certainly doesn't help her case with me at all.
I have to say that I am impressed that our neighbor, this girl who only just finished 4th grade, had the courage - and that her mom encouraged her - to call me and let me know of the situation. It can be confusing for a mom to know when to step back and let kids fight their own battles, and when to help out; I've gone with the notion that if it were my kid and I'd want to know, that's when I step in. And this case is a perfect example of that. I'm glad to have gotten the phone call.
Part of me, based on this experience alone, wants to insist that from here on out my daughter hand over her babysitting wages to me; this same part of me knows that my insistence and force will likely breed resentment toward me on my daughter's part, and why would I do that?
Still, something needs to be done. I know there are a million methods out there - a certain percentage goes here, the rest goes there, etc., but there's got to be a way to have it work out so that my daughter sees that it's beneficial for her as well . . . maybe even one of those Magical Mommy Switcheroos where it ends up that my daughter thinks it was her own idea.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.