This weekend Marion went with the church youth group to their annual winter retreat about 2 hours away. She took Rhys with her and I got to spend some good time with the girls. On Friday night, Victoria wanted to treat Ellie and I to dinner at a place in town called The Windy City, that specializes in Chicago cuisine - Italian Beef, Chicago Hot Dogs, etc.. This is something she has been talking about ever since she got some money for Christmas because she knows that I like that kind of food and thought it would be special to go to dinner there. Victoria is tremedously gracious, and when Marion first told me that this is what she wanted to do with part of her Christmas money, I was very touched. So the date was set. Victoria had been talking about going all day long, and now that it was dinner time and we were in route to go to the Windy City. We first ran a few errands and then quick went home to get her money out of her big bucket. You see, a few weeks ago, each of the kids got a big plastic bucket to put all of their money in. We got this idea from financial motivational speaker and counsler, Dave Ramsey, as a way to get kids excited about saving money - the clear plastic bucket helps them visualize what saving money looks like (and what spending money looks like too). Victoria got out of the car and quick ran up to her room to get the money out of her bucket. The only problem we found was that when she got there, no money was to be found. She was confused. What had happened to her money?
I finally reached the conculsion that her money must have been used for another gift that she wanted - an electric massager. You see this was another gift that Victoria really wanted, and Marion bought it on Amazon a few days ago and must have went to get the money out of Victoria's bucket to pay for it. Needless to say this put Dad into a unique situation. She had been only talking about taking us to the Windy City for dinner all day, but now there was no money in the bucket. A lot of stuff rushed through my mind at that moment, and then I finally thought this could stand to be a valuable teaching moment, although it was extremely painful. I told her that we could not go out for dinner because you need money to do that, and there was not any left in the bucket. Ouch. That is a hard message for anybody to hear, let alone a 5 year old. I thought more then once that maybe I was being a little to harsh.
The reality set it. Victoria was devestated, and let me know by showing extreme emotion. Crying, Yelling, Plassing the blame on others.."I didn't want mom to buy that massager, why did she do that and take my money?!?!" I told her that the massager was something she said she wanted and there was no reason to yell at mom about that. She was very upset, and then in the midst of her emotion, my five year old came up with a brillant idea - "Dad you can pay for the dinner with your money." All of a sudden Dad became the bailout plan. I thought to myself..."Why not, it worked for the banks?" I then delivered the hard message that I did not have the money to pay to eat out and so we would have to stay home and make dinner. More emotion. More crying. More yelling.
Not feeling so great, I went to get Ellie, who had been waiting in the car for us to come back with the money. I said that we we had a change of plans and that we would be eating dinner at the house. Ellie asked why, and I said that Victoria did not have any money in her bucket. Ellie then did one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. She said "I have money in my bucket. I will give Victoria some of my money out of my bucket." You see Ellie's bucket is looking pretty good after just celebrating a birthday. Ellie quickly jumped out of the car, ran up to her room, grabbed her bucket, took the money out and handed it to Victoria.
Victoria all of a sudden stopped crying and was very thankful to her sister giving her a big hug. I told Victoria that was a very special thing Ellie did and Ellie had a huge smile on her face - "Can we go get a hotdog?", she asked. Victoria then said she was going to work hard to fill up her bucket so that she could give some money back to Ellie. We are in the process of starting a "allowence" system with Victoria, where she gets paid for doing her chores so I am hopeful it won't take long for her to make good on her promise.
Well they are only five and three, but they both taught me a lot. I hope this small lesson about money will stay with Victoria. She now tells me - "If there is not money in the bucket, then you can't do stuff." It is not always easy being a Dad and sometimes I second guess if I am doing the right thing especially when it is not the popular thing. This time it was worth it. We had a great dinner and evening together, and this moment made my weekend so I had to share it.