Our son Malcolm is money obsessed. It’s not just the acquiring and spending of cash that concerns him, but the entire cycle. The history of paper currency, the minting process, credit cards, mortgages, and the stock market. If you’ve ever struggled to imagine Alan Greenspan as a five year old, struggle no more.
One morning a couple of weeks ago, Malcolm greeted me thusly: “Good morning, Mom. Are you feeling bullish or bearish today?” We often refer to him as Alex P. Keaton. Though Malcolm claims he voted for Obama in the school’s mock election, I have my doubts. Like the hippie parents on Family Ties, we are frequently at a loss to explain this situation. One day, while I was teaching, a student of mine who also bears a strong resemblance to Alex Keaton, both in dress and in political views, asked me, “How would you feel if your son was gay?” “Unfazed,” I told him. “OK, how about if he wanted to be an artist and live off free food restaurants were throwing away?” “As long as he’s happy,” I told him. “OK, what if he grew up to be a lawyer for oil companies?” He had me. Gulp.
Malcolm brings home a lot of papers from school reporting on the kids’ news, wishes and fondest hopes. When most of the kids say things like, “I love my mom and dad,” or “I wish our dog wouldn’t die,” Malcolm reliably reports on his liquid assets.
For their Christmas wishes his classmates wrote such things as, “I wish my Uncle Michael could come see us this year.” “I wish I could have a bunny to snuggle,” and “I want to wish the Baby Jesus a Happy Birthday!” My son? “I wish I could have a Nintendo DS.” Like most of his avaricious classroom declarations, this one reads embarrassingly cold and venal. But when I thought about it some more, I realized that he’s not wishing for video games instead of time with a beloved uncle, or snuggling with a bunny, it’s because he doesn’t have to wish for those things at all. We are grateful everyday that my extended family, all the uncles and aunts, and the maternal grandparents too, are within 5 miles of our house. We have a huge Thanksgiving level feast courtesy of my mom with almost everyone every Sunday night. And we not only have a bunny, but 3 parrots, and 9 chickens too. What’s this kid got to wish for but stuff we won’t buy him?
I’m glad that Malcolm watches his every penny. He knows to the cent what every item he wants costs. He has to buy his own candy and little toys, so he knows how long it takes to save up. He’s entrepreneurial too, instructing me to send emails to his friends’ parents reading, “I am starting a comic stor thay r $1 If you want 1 let me know.” And then he draws up comics and pays to make copies of them at the library. I have to admire that.
So, I’m not going to fight it. I’m embracing it. And this year, the coolest gift I found for him was an old, cast iron mechanical bank that fires coins from a cannon into a fort-like stronghold. It may not be a DS, but I suspect this mechanism is more durable.