I had what I would consider a disappointing and mildly depressing experience the other day. My two year old son likes to play with the ‘big kids’ who live across the street, especially since they frequently have other ‘big kid’ friends coming over to join the party. So, naturally, I get to step in as my newly acquired role of ‘Mr. Kyle’ and play like it’s 1995.
It’s not all games, however. I clearly have a responsibility as the adult on the scene to inject my profound and valuable elderly wisdom into these young whipper snappers.
That’s why I nearly sold our house and moved to middle of nowhere Texas when one kid in particular destroyed my faith in the upcoming generation. I thought I had reason to hope, given that multiple studies have shown that Generation Z is beginning to display a more ‘pragmatic’ and ‘conservative outlook on the world’. I certainly want to be hopeful, too, since I now have kids of my own. Turns out i’ve been kidding myself. Perhaps I was delusional to think that the children of millennials would, by the age of 8 years old, understand the rewards of fiscal responsibility, the value of hard work, and other depression era lessons learned the hard way. I suppose when you say it like that, it’s obvious I never should’ve been so naive…
I can only imagine that you’re dying to know what the heck the kid did to warrant such a reaction. I hope the dramatic suspense was worth the wait..
I found a penny in the road. A perfectly shiny little cent with righteous Abe Lincoln’s mugshot on it. I nearly pocketed it, but ultimately decided to graciously offer it to the young kid playing baseball with my son. I fancied myself a professional ball player who caught a pop fly and threw it to the ecstatic kid in the front row. I would play it cool, of course, careful not to let him know what an overly joyous moment it was for me as the new dad on the block. As i’m daydreaming of being a millionaire athlete and holding the penny out to the kid, I noticed he wasn’t taking it with an ear to ear grin plastered across his face. He said no.
He had no interest in it at all and I was completely mortified.
Some of you reading may be thinking “Kyle, seriously dude, it’s just a penny”. I understand that, but this kid didn’t just politely decline the coin out of humility and self-sacrifice. He looked at the MONEY in my hand that I was GIVING to him like it was a piece of old broccoli I found under the refrigerator being served for desert after a four course meal of cake and ice cream.
I don’t want that. What am I supposed to do with it? It’s not worth anything!
Money. Free money doesn’t get kids excited nowadays. I wasn’t expecting anything in return but a smile and perhaps a nice ‘thank you’. I didn’t expect my grass to get cut or my gutters cleaned, tried and true ways to get money from your neighbors as an adolescent. Not anymore, apparently.
Now I can guarantee you that had that been a paper dollar he would’ve felt differently. He’d have taken it eagerly, hopefully thankfully, and started brainstorming over the candy selection at the nearest gas station. But a penny wasn’t worth so much as a reluctant acceptance. He didn’t even consider taking the thing.
I’m afraid he doesn’t understand what a piggy bank is or that a pile of those same pennies is the same as a dollar. And a pile of those dollars equals a thousand dollars. And a pile of those equals food, and clothes, and a car, or a stupid drone from Best Buy because they’re cool, anything worth saving up for and rewarding yourself for your patience. I can remember walking out to the local convenience store with my grandfather, a heavy pocket of long saved change slowing us down, and sitting on the floor counting and sorting several piles to make sure I had exactly the right amount for my candy or bag of beef jerky. In hindsight, it was probably aggravating as hell for everyone present to wait 20 minutes for me to anxiously count my $5.43, but the lessons learned and experience gained was too valuable for an adolescent rather than simply swiping a card and handing out free stuff. Thanks, Pops.
I shouldn’t have to explain why this seemingly harmless incident of penny-denial represents a much more dangerous and toxic attitude prevailing our youth. The results are ubiquitous and obvious. How many millions of recent college graduates voted in the last presidential election with their number one issue being ‘free college tuition’? They don’t understand basic economics, free market capitalism (despite personally thriving in all of it’s pleasures), or even appreciate the fact that they’re main political interests are to steal money from those who earn it to give it to those who don’t. Many of their parents worked one or two jobs (some more than that) to put themselves through college or a vocational school, and they did it without the modern conveniences we all share today nearly regardless of our income. I wouldn’t short change that, either. Do any of you remember what it was like to go to the library to research a paper and find books with the dewey decimal system?
Not really, let me Google that real quick with my wireless $800 dollar super satellite computer sitting in my pocket.
See my point? It’s exactly that sort of lifestyle that necessitates more attention to our children’s appreciation of money and understanding of the value of a dollar (or even a penny). Otherwise they’ll grow up spoiled and ignorant, never fully appreciating the work their parents and others before them did to ease their burden of self-reliance, as all good parents want to do.
Something so simple as saving pennies as a child could be what prevents the next ‘fight for $15’ protester. I think we can all agree we have enough of them already.
So let’s give the piggy-bank industry a boost and teach our kids about pennies, ok?