I laid down in the mud. It was cool and gritty and I could already feel it seeping through my pants and shirt, each growing soggy. Then I let my head fall back. A quiet sploosh followed as the wet and grime slid through the neck of my sweatshirt. The cold was a shock but then came relief as it cooled the back of my head and entered my ear holes. No more noise, just muffled shouts and finally silence as everyone around me stopped.
Or at least I assumed they’d stopped because I’d lost track of the outside world, all the yelling and arguing, the traffic, the endless search for a parking space, all of it gone, as I let the brown muck sooth the tightness in my neck. Letting my arms down into the wet on either side, I grabbed handfuls and ran it through my hair and applied it to my cheeks and forehead, the grit scraping across my skin.
I closed my eyes, and could hear nothing but the sound of my breathing and meditated on the vibration inside my skull. Exhaling out of my nostrils, I sunk deeper into the mire. I was slipping down into the earth until a voice, as if it was slithering through a cardboard tube broke through my frail cocoon.
Opening my eyes, I saw my wife leaning over me, she was saying something I couldn’t quite get so I pushed myself up with my elbows as water trickled out of my ears. “… you doing?” she asked, looking at me with incredulous frustration. I sat all the way up. Cars were still scrambling for that elusive slot, regardless of our spot in the corner median.
My children stared at me–more amused than alarmed–until my youngest smiled and said, “What are you doing, daddy?” Before I could answer–what would I have said?–his older brother punched him in the arm. Continuing to search my face for some sort of explanation, my wife finally sighed and went to separate the howling kids. “Stop it,” she tried not to yell.
I ran my fingers through my hair. The mud had caked up. I think it was time to leave.
From an early age–when toddler B was around two-and-a-half–I started to buy him whatever he wanted, and Mama soon followed. Mostly it was toys–which I often wanted myself–or candy or puzzles. Almost a year-and-a-half later we’re still doing it. It’s hard to say no to him and it’s fun to make him happy, but I’m also starting to realize the downside of it.
A couple of weeks ago, he received $5 in the mail from his Nana and Papa. As soon as he saw it, B said, “Let’s go spend it,” and off he and his Mama went to the Dollar Tree. The longer this goes on, though, the more I worry about it. How will we teach our son the value of money, and are we raising a future predatory capitalist. Does it even matter at this point?
I think it does at least on one level. Most parents are able to use the concept of an allowance as a real control measure. If you don’t do your chores, you won’t get your dollar or however much is doled out these days. However, my wife and I are so free with our limited funds when it comes to B that it might be hard to carry out something like that. The other day, I asked the old lady as much, and all she could do was shrug her shoulders. I wonder if it’s too late to start.
This past Sunday, the New York Times magazine ran a rather lengthy article about the success of dollar stores in this lethargic economy. Thanks to my sister–who would rave about her low-cost purchases there–I started frequenting our local Dollar Tree around a year and a half ago. Considering we are largely a one-income family, it has become a great resource for us. For instance, we get my son B lots of puzzles there as well as the D-sized batteries that power G’s automated swing, one of his favorite places to sleep and where he’s currently dozing as I type.
A pack of three size-D batteries for $1 is an amazing deal and the Dollar Tree is filled with a lot more, like bottles of Gatorade or bags of David sunflower seeds. They also carry the Betty Crocker line of cooking utensils and so the old lady returned from a recent trip there with a rubber brush to cover food with spices (something I also get there), an item that would normally cost a few dollars elsewhere. Not much I’ve mentioned is an essential–although they certainly have those, cleaning supplies for example, and plenty of food–but they’re all useful or appreciated elements that make life a little more enjoyable. For a dollar, it seems worth it.