For his bar mitzvah, my son asked guests to make donations to the Anti-Defamation League in lieu of gifts, but a lot of people have given him cash instead, or in addition. Naturally, he is thrilled. He gets the best of both worlds: credit for being charitable and selfless, and money to blow on himself. He’s been itching all week to go to the camping store REI to indulge his latest passion, rock climbing. Well, calling it a “passion” may be a stretch since he’s never actually been rock climbing before. But he will; one of the best presents he received is a private outdoor rock climbing lesson for him and a friend.
The instructor apparently brings all the necessary equipment so the novice climber can learn what he needs and how to use it. But that didn’t stop my Mr. Impulsive from insisting he first buy a bunch of gear with the wad of cash burning a giant hole in his pocket. I didn’t even try to stop him; it wouldn’t have worked, and in any case I haven’t really discovered a good way to teach my children about money beyond talking a lot about the value of things, and then letting them figure it out for themselves. When I suggested to him that he open a savings account, he scoffed: “Why? So I can earn 30 cents a year in interest?” Just try to come up with a sound rejoinder to that. He knows we think saving money for college is important, but should we force him to? And if so, how?
Our REI trip was almost derailed when the middle-school nurse called me 15 minutes before the final bell to say my son was in her office feeling nauseated. I was inclined to leave him there; a stomach virus is my most dreaded illness in a child–a fever with no other symptoms is my favorite–so I reasoned that if he were about to throw up, better the school nurse deal with it than I. Yet when I got him home he proceeded to eat two bags of popcorn and a bunch of candy left over from the Bar Mitzvah, and by 6:00 had miraculously recovered enough to make the excursion. I was surprised and a little suspicious to hear him bandy about terms like “top roping” “trad” and “belay” with the REI clerk, who mercifully sized him up quickly and offered welcome advice on relatively affordable “starter” equipment. Approximately $375 later, my boy was in ecstatic possession of several ropes, a harness, carabiners, and quickdraws, some of which he may actually learn how to use someday.
I think I’ll make him watch “127 Hours” before I let him go.