Why Does Everything Cost Money?

So, I bribed Ax out of the house yesterday with the promise of chocolate coconut ice cream from our local purveyor. They sell an “itty bitty” size that really is quite small, but still, there’s definitely sugar in it. Anyway, we were out and about and there happens to be a lovely toy store in the same complex that Ax happened to want to visit after his ice cream. I said fine but we were not getting anything today, just so he knows. Time passed. He was happy touching, playing, examining for a long while. Asking me if he could put this truck, that space ship, these rubber snakes on his “wish list” – the concept we use that seems to satisfy his need for acquisition without actually buying anything. “Yes, that can go on your wish list,” I said benevolently, over and over again.

From time to time I’d ask why he liked something, or didn’t he already have that thing, or wasn’t this thing that was like that thing better, just to keep it interesting. But generally he wanted what he wanted and was not open to suggestion. He wanted everything, even the stuffed kitten key chains.

I was acting pretty patient I think, but I was not feeling patient at all. I was feeling annoyed that my child would rather spend the day eating ice cream and fondling merch than hiking in the forest or frolicking on the beach or even making merry at some kind of educational museum or playground. I was antsy as hell and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I gave him the dreaded five-minute warning.

And then it came. The Ask. The small box of Legos, some kind of rescuer something to build, like so many others he has, held out to me like a rare orchid.

“Mom, can I please have this?” eyes gazing upward, an angel on earth.

“Yes, you can have that on your wish list.”

“No, today.”

“Not today honey, we talked about how we weren’t going to get anything today.”

“Why can’t we get it today?”

“Well you spent all your allowance the other day on the shark popper so now it’s time to save up again.”

“But I want you to get it for me.”

“I know you do honey, and when it’s a present occasion like a birthday or Hanukkah we might get it. Or you can get it with your allowance this weekend.”

“Why can’t we get it today?”

“Because part of my job as your mom is to teach you that we can’t get everything we want when we want it. Things cost money and even though we have plenty of money we don’t have enough to get everything we want all the time. No one does. We’re really lucky because we have plenty of money for a nice house, and water, and good food, and books, and tv, and going to cool places and a lot of people don’t have money for those things even. Some kids don’t have a nice home to live in. Some kids only get presents on their birthday. Some kids don’t even get presents on their birthday. But we have plenty of money for that so we are lucky. But there’s a limit. So my job is to teach you where the limits are. That’s why we can’t get that today.”

“But why does everything cost money?”

“That’s a really good question,” I said. And then I tried to plug a hike or a beach adventure, two fun things that don’t cost money, but he wasn’t having it.

He said, “I have lots of toys.”

I said, “Yes you do. Do you want to go home and play with them?”

“Yes.” And we did.