Tonawanda News

November 25, 2013

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Dollar by dollar, teaching responsibility

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

— We stood on the very verge of the “I wants.”

The boys have never been acquisitive children. Give Jim his music, a little bit of TV time and a basketball, and he’s good. Sam’s always been a marvel of efficiency when it comes to entertaining himself. They received clothes and a moderate amount of toys and books for birthdays and Christmases and they were happy.

I blame Sam’s discovery of our Wii system for the beginning of the end.

From the time we let him give it a whirl, MarioKmart was good for months of entertainment. A few gift games bought us more time. But eventually we came to that day when he dragged me into a gaming store and stood raptly before the wall o’games, eyes shining. I could see his lips shaping the words: 

“I want ...”

Add to this the realization that there’s more out there when it comes to Star Wars toys than the beloved Millenium Falcon (circa 1980s) his father allows him to play with, and the lightbulb went on.

There was STUFF out there. And he wanted it. He wanted it all.

I’ll count it as a parenting victory that we saw it coming. And one night just before school started this fall, we offered him a deal with that magical A-word attached: Allowance.

The duties were simple. Pick up the living room every evening before going to bed. Make sure your sneakers are lined up in your room. Make your bed. And in return: Money. The whopping sum of $2 a week, his to spend or stash in that Buffalo Sabres piggy bank on his dresser.

(OK, the household corporation of Keppeler & Keppeler does not, particularly, pay well. He’s 5 and also gets room and board and the odd vacation here and there. He can live with it.)

He was ... intrigued. I could see the wheels turning as he connected work to money for the very first time in his existence. It was a deal.

The first few times I had to remind him when it was time to deal with the nightly clean-up routine. There was eye-rolling. There was foot-dragging. There was just a little bit of moping.

It all went away the very first time I handed over two battered $1 bills. He beamed. And then he asked, “Is this enough for a game?”

Err. No. 

He was disappointed, but bounced back. Every night, he dutifully went to work, picking up toys, finding his oft-missing sneakers and arranging his Perry comforter just so. And every Sunday, two dollars were handed over, all tucked promptly in the Buffalo Sabres piggy bank. And the question was asked, “Is this enough?”

There was no whining. No complaining. I was impressed.

And after two months or so, the weekly question was asked: “Do I have enough for a new game?”

“Yes, buddy. I believe you do.” 

We trotted off to a local game store with those 20 $1 bills firmly in tow. This time, when he stepped up to the wall o’games, it was with a new glee.

There were still some that were above his price range. He was unfazed. Within a 10 minutes a selection had been made (Lego Indiana Jones, if you’re curious), and he carried it and his wad of crushed bills to the register and waited patiently in line.

He proudly told the clerk that he’d saved up his allowance himself for the first time. The man smiled.

“Buddy,” he said. “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”

One $12 game. A few bucks left over and duly returned to the piggy bank. It’s a start. 

These days, I don’t get asked every week if there’s enough for a new game yet. The allowance still gets deposited in the bank, but I suspect he’s got his eye on bigger game, such as Disney Infinity or the big Star Wars AT-AT “walker” playset he saw at the toy store. That’s up to him, and I’m content to let it be so.

Santa Claus will likely be bringing a new wallet. And there will likely be Christmas money to add to the stash.

Just in time, too: It’s starting to dawn on him that there are also shelves and shelves of books he’s never read out there, as well.

Who knows?

This might be the start of another beautiful relationship.




Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.