Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Girl, The Ego and The First Grocery Shop

Grocery shopping.

It even sounds mundane. It's that thing we all have to do every few days or so if we want to maintain our stash of fresh fruits and veggies. And so it was to be our 'event', last Tuesday. As usual, nothing here is ever just what it seems on the surface or even at second glance.

This grocery event actually harkens back to last weekend. At the time, we would never have realized that... days before actually arriving at the grocery store, we began our journey...

It was the annual town-wide yard sale. We've lived here for seven years now, in this small community. Having grown up in the big city, it is a whole new way of life for me and this yard sale extravaganza is no exception.

Here's the deal: We live just outside of town and so we turn this into a full day outing. We load up the bikes, trikes and buggies and a picnic lunch before heading out. Once in town, we park the van (of course with all of our 'gear' it has to be a full-sized eight-seater) and then we walk and walk and walk...

It's a wonderful walk because the gardens are all blooming and it seems almost everyone in a small town really tries their best to have a wonderful looking yard. It inspires me. (It doesn't make me a successful gardner, but it does inspire me to keep trying to be one.) And every third house seems to have their driveway filled with wonderful magical goodies that will somehow make our lives better.

And so, to provide lessons in economics, negotiating and budgeting, each child was given five dollars to spend as they desired.

Of course, the first thing my son saw was an enormous dinky car track/digger toy that he just had to have. I told him not to pay more than two dollars for it but, at six years old, he was too shy to make the deal. So, I went with him to talk to the lady. She was asking $5. I offerred $2. She kindly accepted. And then I made my mistake. (Pay attention parents-of-young-children...)

I grabbed a toonie out of my purse, thinking that my son's $5 should go toward his own negotiations. Feeling strangely rewarded and satisfied with our deal, we balanced the toy on top of the double stroller and moved on.

We then came across another house that was selling cloth diapers and infant summer clothing that I enjoyed perusing for about half an hour. During that time, the children went to the home two doors over. Though my son was still feeling too shy to negotiate, he stood witness as my eight year old daughter did the haggling. She managed to master the technique in about five seconds and scored a $3 Bionicle for $2, a 50 cent slinky for half price and other unnamed treasures.

All this time the children were running back and forth, between the neighbour's house and our buggy. I was thinking that they were putting their 'deals' directly into the buggy. This was not the case. They were using up the change in my purse before 'breaking' their own five dollar bills.

By the time I finished making my own, extremely satisfying, deals. I realized that I had indeed made a gross miscalculation. I had promoted the idea of making one's money last longer by using someone else's money first. And so the change purse bank was immediately closed for business and the children were left to their own devices and five dollar bills.

It didn't do much good though. They already had pretty much everything they wanted.

My son declared, "I'm going to put mine in my money jar at home to save for something really big. Maybe even for my Smart Car!" (To my chagrine, he has recently stated that he's not going to have children when he grows up because he's getting a Smart Car. Therefore, there won't be any room for children. .. DARN that Smart Car!)

My daughter, in her usual subdued manner, refused to comment in any way, on the future of her own five dollar bill.

Then, several days later, at the grocery store, she confidently announced that she would be using her money to do her very own "First Grocery Shop".

Believe me when I say that I had some difficulty with this. I had all kinds of dreams about what creative thing she would do with her money. Buying food was not on that list of possibilities. My first reaction was that she would have to spend her money on groceries when she grew up. She should get other things now. However, I curbed my tongue because I had made the commitment that they could spend their money however they please and I would not interfere.

I am glad that I did not interfere... and I know that there is another parenting lesson in there but I will have to give it some time to let it sink in.

Her excitement was almost palpable as she placed the marker on the checkout belt to keep her items separate from mine.

On the way home, every time I looked in my 'kiddie' rearview mirror, she had a big grin on her face whilst looking out the window. Finally, she exclaimed, "I love buying my own groceries!"

Usually when her father comes home, he has to search her out to say hello. And when he asks what she did, the usual response is, "I forget." (The bane of all homeschooling parents, worldwide.)

But this day she ran to the door and blurted out that she had, indeed, done The First Grocery Shop of her Life. She then proceeded to list her carefully and wisely chosen items: "...6 kiwi for $1!... a package of radishes... some Fruit-To-Go travel snacks... and some moneyplant seeds!" (Perhaps she thinks that she can grow some money?)

And even now, her thrill is as palpable as if she's just disembarked the biggest roller coaster on the planet, as she replays the events of her "First Grocery Shop".

This is the beginning of something BIG... here in The Gray Zone...

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