Fifteen Dollar Mistakes

“What do you want me to get, Mom?”  Squints grabbed a cart and wheeled it to the produce section.
“A couple of pounds of cheese for sandwiches.”  My kids live on grilled cheese during the summer.  For each sandwich she makes, V puts on four slices of cheese.  And she’ll eat two sandwiches for lunch.
“Snacks?” He waggled his eyebrows at me and grinned.   
They also live on snacks.  Unhealthy, expensive snacks that disappear minutes after they enter the house.  “A bag or two.  We’re on a budget.”
“Thanks, Mom!” And he was off. 
“Check the ingredients,” I shouted after him.  “Not too much salt.”
“K, Mom!”
He met up with me as I was picking out chicken.  He jammed the cheese into the cart and set two bags of pretzels on top.  “Thought we’d try something new.”
“What’d ya’ get?”  I shoved aside the pretzels.
He moved my hand.  “No, Mom.”  His face reddened.  “You can’t look.”
“Why?”
“It was a little more expensive than usual.”
I pulled the package from the cart.  Fifteen dollars a pound.  I raised my eyebrows.  “You bought Gruyere for grilled cheese sandwiches?”
“I just wanted to try it.”  He looked at me, embarrassed.  “Sorry.  Is it too expensive?”
* * *
Squints had fifteen dollars to spend and when he has money to spend, you’d better get out of his way: he’s a man on a mission.  He decided to get himself an iTunes card so he could download music onto his MP3 player.  “OK if I download a book, Mom?”
“Sure.”  Better that he listen to a decent book than the Black Eyed Peas. 
But instead of downloading an audio book, he’d chosen one of those books for an electronic reader. 
“You can’t use this, Squints.”
“I hate my MP3 player,” he said.  “I want to sell it on eBay.”
“Hey Squints,” I said.  “Better to make a fifteen dollar mistake when you’re young than make a fifteen hundred dollar mistake when you’re older.  You’re supposed to make mistakes now.  That’s your job.”
* * *
At the blueberry patch last week, a boy proudly held up his quart of blueberries to his father.  “Look, Dad!”
The father reached in, plucked a blueberry off the top.  “This isn’t ripe,” he said, tossing it onto the ground.  And my heart sank for the little boy, because the week before that Squints held up his own quart of berries to show me.  “Look, Mom!”
I didn’t see the work he put into the berries.  I saw the half-ripened berries scattered here and there within the cardboard basket.  “You have an awful lot of red berries in there.”  And his shoulders hunched and his smile disappeared and I looked into my own basket and saw I had some unripe berries as well.
* * *
Against their policy, Apple refunded Squints’ money and for two nights, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.   And I have to say, with lettuce and tomatoes, basil and mushrooms and onions from our local farmers’ market, one slice of Gruyere makes a pretty good sandwich.  For two nights, we ate blueberries for dessert. 
The red ones were a bit tart, but it was nothing that a pinch of sugar couldn’t resolve.


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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Fifteen Dollar Mistakes

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fifteen Dollar Mistakes

“What do you want me to get, Mom?”  Squints grabbed a cart and wheeled it to the produce section.
“A couple of pounds of cheese for sandwiches.”  My kids live on grilled cheese during the summer.  For each sandwich she makes, V puts on four slices of cheese.  And she’ll eat two sandwiches for lunch.
“Snacks?” He waggled his eyebrows at me and grinned.   
They also live on snacks.  Unhealthy, expensive snacks that disappear minutes after they enter the house.  “A bag or two.  We’re on a budget.”
“Thanks, Mom!” And he was off. 
“Check the ingredients,” I shouted after him.  “Not too much salt.”
“K, Mom!”
He met up with me as I was picking out chicken.  He jammed the cheese into the cart and set two bags of pretzels on top.  “Thought we’d try something new.”
“What’d ya’ get?”  I shoved aside the pretzels.
He moved my hand.  “No, Mom.”  His face reddened.  “You can’t look.”
“Why?”
“It was a little more expensive than usual.”
I pulled the package from the cart.  Fifteen dollars a pound.  I raised my eyebrows.  “You bought Gruyere for grilled cheese sandwiches?”
“I just wanted to try it.”  He looked at me, embarrassed.  “Sorry.  Is it too expensive?”
* * *
Squints had fifteen dollars to spend and when he has money to spend, you’d better get out of his way: he’s a man on a mission.  He decided to get himself an iTunes card so he could download music onto his MP3 player.  “OK if I download a book, Mom?”
“Sure.”  Better that he listen to a decent book than the Black Eyed Peas. 
But instead of downloading an audio book, he’d chosen one of those books for an electronic reader. 
“You can’t use this, Squints.”
“I hate my MP3 player,” he said.  “I want to sell it on eBay.”
“Hey Squints,” I said.  “Better to make a fifteen dollar mistake when you’re young than make a fifteen hundred dollar mistake when you’re older.  You’re supposed to make mistakes now.  That’s your job.”
* * *
At the blueberry patch last week, a boy proudly held up his quart of blueberries to his father.  “Look, Dad!”
The father reached in, plucked a blueberry off the top.  “This isn’t ripe,” he said, tossing it onto the ground.  And my heart sank for the little boy, because the week before that Squints held up his own quart of berries to show me.  “Look, Mom!”
I didn’t see the work he put into the berries.  I saw the half-ripened berries scattered here and there within the cardboard basket.  “You have an awful lot of red berries in there.”  And his shoulders hunched and his smile disappeared and I looked into my own basket and saw I had some unripe berries as well.
* * *
Against their policy, Apple refunded Squints’ money and for two nights, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.   And I have to say, with lettuce and tomatoes, basil and mushrooms and onions from our local farmers’ market, one slice of Gruyere makes a pretty good sandwich.  For two nights, we ate blueberries for dessert. 
The red ones were a bit tart, but it was nothing that a pinch of sugar couldn’t resolve.


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8 Comments:

At July 6, 2011 at 9:54 PM , Anonymous Songbyrd1958 said...

I love this! It's so easy to say no or point out the things they do wrong but it is also so easy to just say yes or offer praise and turn a blind eye to the mistakes and make a kids day, I wish I could go back and have some do-overs for my child raising days....

 
At July 7, 2011 at 5:10 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

When do you praise and when to be critical even mildly. Praise is a great tool to keep kids on track, but it has to be genuine it can't become a feelgood pill. To not critisize when needed is a lost opportunity to teach. A balancing act for sure but sounds like you and your hubby handled it well. Sort of a peaks and valley deal and a constant diet of praise eventually turns hollow.

 
At July 7, 2011 at 6:28 AM , Anonymous Stacy Green said...

I'm going to have to try that grilled cheese sandwich! I agree with Jaum - figuring out when to praise and when to be critical is tricky. And choosing your words is even tougher. You want them to learn but you don't want to shatter their fragile egos. My daughter is very sensitive, so I have to be really careful.

Great post!

 
At July 7, 2011 at 9:15 AM , Anonymous Jenn O @ Litendeavors said...

I know! That grilled cheese sandwich sounds like a luxurious gourmet meal. I've hurt my daughters' feelings more times than I can count with a careless word spoken in an absent-minded moment. Back-tracking is tricky and I always have to make up for it in unusual ways.

Great piece, as always, and wonderful lesson imparted.

 
At July 7, 2011 at 11:28 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Jenn! Those sandwiches did end up being delicious. And the farmers' market is opening in an hour...

 
At July 7, 2011 at 11:29 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks Stacy!

 
At July 7, 2011 at 11:30 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yes the next box *was* good - But that was when he sneaked into the closed row!

 
At July 7, 2011 at 11:33 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Do overs: Yeah, I could use those too! What I didn't write about was my grumping over having to help Squints download his songs from my laptop to his MP3 player. Not my best moment.

 

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