Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuition: 75 cents

A few years ago, the youngest son and I were at the Walmart when he spied the "Claw" machine, piled high with brightly colored toys, in the entryway.
"It's only a quarter, Mother! Can I play?"
"I don't have any quarters, son."
"I do! Can I? Please?"
"You know you're not guaranteed to win."
"I know."
"Okay, go ahead."

He was elated! And he was SO sure he knew how to grab that one stuffed animal just right....
But, he missed it.

"One more time? I know what I did wrong."
"Honey, if you don't get it, you will have lost both your quarters."
"I know. But, I can get it."

Again, he missed.

"I almost got it. Please?"
"It's your money. Are you sure you want to spend it even if you don't get the toy?"
"It's only a quarter."

One more time, he got nothing.
As we walked away, it dawned on him that he had spent 75 cents and had nothing to show for it.
"Since I didn't win, will you give me 75 cents?"
"Uh, no."
"Why not?"
"Because you knew what would happen if you didn't win. I warned you. I was sure you understood."
"No, honey."
"I learned my lesson. Please?"
"I'm sorry, no."

He cried in car on the way home.
I felt so bad.
It would have been so easy to hand him three quarters and put the world right in his head. What parent wouldn't give a measely 75 cents to make their own child happy? to mend their broken heart?

I wanted to cry, too.

When he finally calmed down, I said, "That is a hard lesson to learn, honey. It really is. But, you are lucky you only lost 75 cents. Some people lose a lot of money and still get nothing. You were smart to walk away before you lost any more than you did. I'm very proud of you."

He sniffled and nodded. Then asked, "Will you give me 75 cents for being smart?"
This time, we both laughed, and there was order in the universe once again.

1 comment:

Bob said...

"No, Honey. I'll give you more than 75 cents for being smart. I'll give you a great big hug."

(Trust me -- I'd give a million bucks for one of my mom's hugs. After 33 years I still miss her.)