Sing a song of sixpence or money for a toy

I never want our children to be worried about whether we’ll have enough money for things we need.
At the same time, though, I want our sons to appreciate that we are blessed to have many resources not available to everyone in the world. I also want them to realize the importance of saving and know we can’t always buy what we want when we want it.

So when I took Leo and Daniel to the Air and Space Annex a few weeks ago, I explained that we were packing our lunches for the museum to save money. And I told them that I would give them each $5 to buy an item in the gift shop.
Daniel, who’s 3, didn’t seem to care. Leo, who’s 5, was excited.
While we were eating lunch at the museum, my mother slipped away from the table to visit the gift shop. She came back and said, “There’s not much for $5.”
But I had said $5.
Leo could not wait to go to the gift shop. He asked the price on almost every item. Some were $30. Some were $60. Some were even more. It was eye-opening for me, and I started regretting saying $5. I wished I had said $0. Still, I do like a challenge. And I enjoyed watching Leo on his hunt.
He found some $6 items, and as soon as he heard the price, he put them back. He didn’t ask for a larger spending limit. He didn’t get frustrated. He never even asked his grandfather to foot the bill for a pricier toy, though I think Grandpa was getting pretty close to volunteering.
Watching Leo as he shopped made me wish I mirrored his approach to shopping. He didn’t quarrel with his mother’s low spending limit. He didn’t complain that everything in the store was overpriced. He had faith that if he kept looking, we would find the perfect toy and it would be $5. I could definitely take a lesson from him.
At last, while the boys were fingering $5 inflatable space shuttles I didn’t really want to own, we came across a $10 item.
“Well,” I said, “if you wanted to, you could put your money together and buy this.”
At first the boys weren’t sure. How much fun could it be to share a new toy? But as Leo and Daniel looked at the tube full of small plastic astronauts, shuttles, and other space-related figures, they both realized how much they wanted it. So they came to an agreement. And they left the store as happy, proud co-owners of a new space play set.

So we each took a lesson away from our trip to the museum.
Daniel learned that, no matter how many times you ask, Mama won’t let you spend your $5 on a bag of gummy space shuttles.
Leo learned a little math magic. He was impressed by how putting their money together meant coming home with a far superior toy.
What did their Mama learn? Well, when we visited Colonial Williamsburg on Saturday, you can bet we skipped the gift shop.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.