We went to our state fair this week, the first time I've ever been. I thought we should do some comparative literature as home school prep work, so I read accounts of state fairs in some of our favorite old-timey books: Charlotte's Web and Farmer Boy. Then I asked H&Z to wonder how our modern fair would be similar or different. If nothing else, the prep served to make them EXTREMELY EXCITED as we drove down to Topsfield on Friday morning. The excitement carried over as they navigated the petting zoo and saw a REAL LIVE ELEPHANT!, but it waned a bit as we fought against large school groups to sneak a peak at the prize winning vegetables. After an intense hour of trying to see things in the crowded barns we took a break between the fried food stands to eat our bagged lunch. I asked Harvey if this fair was at all similar to the books. He considered a moment while he munched his sandwich, then noting EB White's description he said, "Lot of food for rats here."
After a heartening lunch at 10:30am (the crowds made us all want to stress eat) we enjoyed seeing the sheep sheering demonstration and a lazy parade of horses. Unfortunately, the general admission part of the fair was crowded as crowded could be, and the rest of the entertainment was designed to un-self-consciously strip us of as much cash as possible. I told the boys they could choose one ride and one game, because I am not a terrible moster of a mother. They chose the carousel (only if I rode with them, of course) and for $7.50 I hope they enjoyed the living shit out of that thing.
Unfortunately we had a little family melt-down over the midway game choices. Overstimulation lead to poor communication, and it came out later that Harvey really wanted to play the water shooting game but he was afraid to ask how to shoot the gun. That might have been more fun for everyone, and cost $6 for both children to play. Instead Harvey threw a ball at a cup for $5 (!!!), there was a miscommunication with the Carney over how many balls he would get to throw, and the whole thing was over in a second in exchange for a 25 cent stuffed snake.
Neither mama or Harvey was very pleased with the fair at that moment.
Look, none of us want to throw away our money. There are so many useful things a mama could do with $5. But I share a dirty secret with those rare people whose love language is gift giving (all 8 of us in the world - hang in there sisters!) I actually LOVE spending money on my children. The more frivolous the better. I don't know why - it doesn't quite make sense. It's the easiness of saying yes, the rush of handing over my cash, the joy of looking at their smiling faces and thinking, "I love you more than financial reason."
Of course we're poor, and I'm trying to teach them values, so I don't do it as often as I'd like. Still, considering how much I adore those boys, I could fantasize about being MORE frivolous. My love for them is something that can never be budgeted. Symbolically speaking, a $5 ball throw does not even come close.
Still, this kind of spending is not fiscally responsible, and once we left the fair grounds I transformed that wasted $5 into a veritable homeschool unit. First we discussed the amount of enjoyment that came from playing the game and getting the prize (minimal, because as Harvey noted "it was over so quickly.") Then we stopped by our local real farm and noted the things you could buy for the same $5. TWO whole bottles of chocolate milk (not counting the glass bottle deposit because of trying to keep things simple.) Zion also noted that feeding the goats scraps there doesn't cost any money. And for good measure I took some pictures amidst the pumpkins - a free photo opp with precious lack of interlopers in the background.
I don't know what Harvey will internalize about money growing up in this family. I cannot present him with a unified theory, as I don't have one myself. I try to do a lot for free, but sometimes act like I've suddenly entered a duty free zone. I try not to stress about money, but truthfully I stress about it a lot. I don't know what Harvey will make of all of this. I'd like him to have both a sense of thrift and a feeling of abundance. Maybe the state fair is the wrong place to teach this. Or maybe it's the perfect place.