Late last summer my older son decided to sell some of our produce in front of the house. A farm stand, if you will. I picked him some beans, tomatoes and lettuce. He set up shop with relatively reasonable prices.
Several minutes later he began to bemoan the lack of business in our section of Northampton. The boss, dear soul that she is, rang her mother and suggested a drive by.
This accommodating customer was coaxed into paying an exorbitant amount for a few vegetables. Unfortunately, that proved the sum total of business. Admittedly, I probably hurt business in general by giving the produce away (I did hold off while the farm stand was open).
The session ended when a few tomatoes were used as projectiles. Notice that I’ve used a passive construction there. I’m not accusing either of my sons. Or both of them.
Then the table got stolen from the front yard. This turned the boss against farm stands.
A year passed and said child decided it was high time for another farm stand. This plan was launched with one of the neighborhood children. Of course two six year olds can cause far more trouble than one: trouble increases by the cube of the number of children (trouble is measured in megaboehners; one five year old causes one megaboehner of trouble per hour. One thousand is of course a gigaboehner and 1/1000th is a milliboehner).
They launched their business with similar fan fare only this time I didn’t have to write the signs. They managed to pull in one paying customer (the neighbor urchin’s father).
Both immediately lost interest now that they had two dollars (for a head of lettuce — perhaps I should start selling the stuff). A farce ensued.
Each child made up a story as to why he was owed the two dollars. The fact that I had seeded, weeded, tended and harvested the peas, lettuce, and strawberries that were their store’s product didn’t enter into the arithmetic. Once they had two dollars, they felt that they were both entitled to the two dollars. I felt like a migrant farm worker, only I own the land too.
The attitudes struck me as much like that of many people who resent paying taxes. Once the money was in their hands, they felt that it belonged to them in some inalienable way. Each was willing to pull devious tricks to secure all of the filthy lucre. Neither felt the need to pay for the services of growing the food, providing the frontage necessary for said business or harvesting.
Luckily, they are children. Once they had fully irritated the boss, they forgot all about it and moved on. But I have not. Of course I don’t think these kids are bad kids, but I learned something about money and people’s emotions regarding it that didn’t make me feel good.