Chapter One of my life as a mother is currently closed. I am no longer pregnant or hoping to become so. I am no longer nursing and grateful to be so. And oh, mama, it’s nice. Ever so nice. Not ever so easy—but nice.
Now I’m in Chapter Two—able to volunteer and be of service and a variety of times in the past few years I have assumed the role of The Banker in my children’s classrooms. Educators prefer the term “money-management”, but I prefer Banking (yes, capital B) because it gives me a more prominent title.
For those unfamiliar with this particular teaching model, all week the children get counterfeit money for being on time, completing assignments etc. and they put it into their little banks. If they make poor decisions individually or as a class, their pay is docked. And at the end of the week I help them calculate their dough and they can either save or spend. There is a cart with prizes from fifty cents to ten dollars and if they save to all the way to twenty dollars then they can have pizza in the classroom with their teacher for lunch. I wonder how morale would go up nation-wide if we were given prize carts filled with cute erasers and character tattoos along with our pay stubs?
I rarely need to encourage them to spend because about one-third of the class dumps out their change, counts it and eagerly hands it over to me like an addict to a crack dealer. As a Nutella addict, I am mentoring a few of them through the twelve-step process and I think we are making some positive gains.
I fight the urge to inform them that you can get most of this at the dollar store, but I’m just the Banker, not the investment specialist. Throughout the week they are supposed to keep track of their market profits and losses by taking their sheets home but I think as the year wanes, so has the accounting acumen of the kids, parents and teachers.
Except one. Parent that is. Her child’s sheets are always, always filled in accurately each day, penalties and positives noted and on Friday she has it totaled and the save has been circled in red ink. Who even has a pen with red ink; I can rarely find a sharpened pencil!
I realize there may be a few things going on behind the scenes here:
- They may discuss together her savings plan, her goal and whether she wants to save or spend ahead of time.
- The mother probably wants her to learn the hold-your-breath excitement of saving for a bouncy ball.
- This mother is learning and discovering what truly is important in life just like the rest of us and right now, this is apparently her eleventh commandment: Thou shalt save for the pizza.
So, one day the first-grader was longingly looking at a fuchsia pink snap bracelet in the four dollar drawer. She had around ten dollars and I eagerly suggested, “Would you like to spend?” She thought. And hummed. Looked and thought. Rather reluctantly….”No…I’m supposed to be saving for the pizza.”
This is where I want to pause the scene, find the mom with the red pen, take her aside and query, “Whose life is this? Whose reward is this? Whose slap bracelet vs. pizza for lunch decision is this? You’ve already had 2nd grade, let her have hers, for crying out loud!” But I wouldn’t because I make it a practice to only berate people in my head and attempt to only give advice when asked.
I realize that some kids require more 1:1 monitoring when it comes to decisions based on special needs, but overall, my opinion is to allow my children the opportunity to choose the small things as much as possible while allowing them to mess up early when the consequences are not as high or deadly.
Let me provide some background that in our home there are some highly encouraged practices that if they are not completed, fun and mirth is not possible: school work, instrument preparation and assigned chores. I’m not professing that we let our kids stay in their pajamas all day and eat Nutella straight out of the jar with their fingers. That’s my job. But we do have high expectations and do our part to help them do their part.
Along with my affinity to hazelnut spread, I’m not naturally athletic. I’ve never played in a competitive sport, but from what I gather from watching, the coach doesn’t get to play in the game.
Parenting is a lot like coaching: you teach, you mentor, you prepare, you run drills, you practice and you train them to play the game of life. But you step off the field, and let them show you how well they’ve learned. And if they fumble, you dole out consequences if necessary, then you train, practice and reteach some more and when they get it—when they succeed—you take none, absolutely none of the glory–because it’s their game–their life.
And just as you can’t own their success, you can’t own their failure or their handicap either. I’ve realized that I am like the people in curling matches, clearing the path for my kids the best I can, but what they do with that preparation is their decision. Their challenges and gifts whether observable or not are theirs and theirs alone. Goodness knows I have enough issues of my own to work on. I can help and support and a loving God will lift, but the work and results are theirs to enjoy or suffer.
My children’s challenges, successes and failures are theirs. Not mine. So, I step back. I coach. But I put great effort to not force, take over or circle their future choices in red. I’ve had a great life and now it’s time for theirs. And I enjoy watching the game unfold.