04 January 2008

the tooth fairy, wishes and money

On New Year's Eve, in a Cambridge taxi cab, Matilda lost her first tooth.

She had told me it was loose the day before, wiggled it for me with her finger, and said, "Mom? There's something wrong with my tooth."

Less than an hour before it came out, I received six gold dollar coins in change from a subway ticket vending machine. Having given very little thought to what our particular brand of tooth fairy did for girls who lost their teeth, I was not expecting our older, wiser friend Eden to say slyly, "These are perfect for the tooth fairy."

Thinking about it later I decided that I didn't want our tooth fairy to bring money in exchange for teeth. Instead I told Matilda that if she put her tooth under her pillow that the tooth fairy would come, take it, and grant her a secret wish.

I realize that this presents some logistical problems, but I was thinking of the children's book One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloksey and how childlike the idea of wishes can be. So instead of a dollar coin, the tooth fairy left Matilda a little note, and she was very pleased with it.

Almost as soon as the first tooth was gone, the one right beside the gap turned out to be loose too. It's still wiggling away, but has got me thinking about wishes and money and organization.

Let me explain.

One of the reasons why leaving a dollar (or a quarter, or whatever) for a tooth seemed off, was because Matilda has very little concept of money. She knows that it buys things, and she knows that people work hard to get it, but it's all still very fuzzy for her. I've been thinking about working out an allowance with her, something where she'd have jobs to do during the week - feed the cats, clear and set the table, keep her room clean - and at the end of the week she would receive a dollar or so to save or spend.

The thing is, I'm not a very organized person. I try to keep our house clean and neat, our checkbook balanced, and the children fed and clothed, but most of the time, while these things get done, they happen in a way that is haphazard and does not lend itself to a nice neat schedule of chores and allowance and a solid foundation in learning about money, time, and how to manage them wisely.

I want my children to understand where money comes from, what to do with it, how easily it can be lost. I want them to know that things in life are not free and that to have the things that one needs or wants, one must work hard and plan carefully.

But I set a terrible example.

I am a last minute, up to the deadline kind of girl, both in terms of how I spend my time and how I spend my money. My house is clean when guests arrive (well, mostly) but it always involves a last minute scramble. I have been trying to plan the budget and organize the money better lately, and it's kind of working, but paying bills involves the same last minute flurry of check writing.

Changing the way one lives is really, really hard, and is not the stuff of New Year's resolutions, but rather of ongoing and persistent effort, over a long period of time, definitely years, maybe decades. I am encouraged by the progress Steve and I have made in the last year, the debts are shrinking, the overall household income increasing (slowly) and bills are almost all paid on time these days, but I can't help feeling that we have a very long way to go.


Crystal R. said...

I am the same way regarding money and organization. One thing that really helped was MS Money because I can put all my recurring bills in along with my paychecks and it shows me what my cashflow is going to be over time. I never balance a checkbook - instead I just download my bank account information into the program. I cannot imagine going back to doing it on paper - I'm so forgetful that I know I wouldn't pay my bills on time! Anyway, if you don't have a program like that, I highly recommend it.

Heather, Queen of Shake-Shake said...

Ack! Money. Anxiety. Ack!

Momo Fali said...

We all have a long way to go! I like to think that I'm consistently on a path to improvement. As for teeth...my kids think cash is king.

Maureen said...

Ah, you and the rest of us. I commented recently that this is the first Christmas I actually had money in the bank. Usually I am living cheque to cheque, but now after years and years, we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. House will be paid off this year, but it took a long time... I would never be a fiscally-responsible person to set a good example for my daughter. I can only hope she can learn from my mistakes.

mrs. mustard said...

I love the wishes idea! Am going to steal it when I have to start doling out tooth fairy duties.

Anonymous said...

You are the most imaginative, fun mom ever. I'm so stealing the wishes idea. I often fall into a funk after Christmas because it seems like all the magic just fades away. This seems like a cool way to keep the magic going.


Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

Check out this post on allowance--I think its GREAT. My kids are not old enough to have to worry about this yet, but when I do, I am hoping to do something like this...


Cathy said...

So do we... *shaking head* ... so do we.