The slug dollar
Our house is in a woodland spot, nestled back into the trees. The cool temperatures and shade mean that my garden is little more than a glorified salad bar for slugs. I hate them. Haaaate them. When I see them I give an involuntary shriek, every time, like, I don't know, they're going to climb me or something. When I happen to touch them — oh, I die, I die. And then I wash, I wash.
Charlie doesn't mind them, and even though he knows they disgust me utterly, I guess he can't quite accept it. It's the five-year-old-meets-invertebrate version of "Maybe you lesbians just haven't met the right man yet." (This is usually said, I gather, by some civic-minded gentleman ready to do his bit for society, in the spirit of generosity, self-sacrifice, and penis.)
A couple of years ago Charlie was out poking around in the yard and he called me excitedly, hoping to lure me over. "Mama! I have something great to show you!" His gleeful tone was a warning. "Is it a slug?" I asked. And his pause was long, but honor won out. "...Yes," he finally admitted, thwarted. To avoid it I drove out to Utah.
I exaggerate. It was Kansas.
Anyway, I've put a bounty on slugs. I told Charlie that for each and every slug he photographs and then sends to its rubbery rest, I'd give him a dollar. He lost no time in the hunt, heading straight for the compost bin. He easily ran down his quarry...
...and earnestly confirmed the kill. "Did you step on it?" I asked, but no. "I stabbed it with a stick," he said, with murderous relish. "Its blood ooooozed out. It was yellow."
When I'd been revived from my swoon of gaaaaaaaah, I gave him the promised dollar.
(Either Charlie's using Hipstamatic or he can't hold the camera still to save his slugthirsty life.)
So a few nights ago Paul and Charlie and Ben were getting ready to go to dads' playgroup at the local family center. Wonderful invention: once a week, fathers and kids are invited for dinner and play. Tghanks to dads' playgroup, Thursday nights are when I get my very best nothing done.
Paul asked for the checkbook. It seems that the leader is being paid through the end of June, but the family center ran out of funding for the dinners, so they were asking for donations. Charlie wanted to know what was up so we explained that we were going to contribute so that everyone could keep enjoying playgroup.
And Charlie jumped up, totally unprompted, and headed upstairs. "I'm going to get some money from my bank!" he said, excited, and when he came down he was carrying the dollar. "I'll give them my slug dollar!"
Now, Charlie doesn't really understand money yet. He knows he likes to earn it, which we allow him to do through various jobs around the house, and he knows he enjoys spending it, which he does on selected occasions in a way that bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality. (I'd explain it if there were any rhyme or reason to it, but it basically boils down to my saying, "That costs two coins." Then he pulls out two coins — any two — from his bank and hands them to me. Then I say, "Look! It's Jack and Annie from the Magic Treehouse being torn apart by jackals!" And he dutifully looks away while I slip the cashier real money and pocket his dime and his nickel, or his peso and his Euro, or his Yap Island moneyliths, whatever.) So it's not like he understands the value of a dollar, and as yet he's neither mercenary nor miserly. Those will come, I know, as he starts to notice how money works in the world around him.
But, God, he gave away his slug dollar! He turned it over to the group leader that night; Paul reports that the leader accepted it with appropriate gravity. And I'm a little misty thinking of it. I'm proud of our kid, who has these generous impulses and hasn't yet let self-interest taint them much. It'll come, it'll come, but as long as this lasts, it's wonderful.
That night at bedtime I told Charlie how thoughtful I'd found his gesture, and praised him for thinking of others, caring enough to give up something he'd earned, all that maternal blah-blah I fall into way too easily. I don't know if it makes me a better parent or a worse one that he didn't parrot my priggish line, but I know it makes him more awesome. "I don't mind spending my dollar," he said, in a tone of no-big-deal. "I'll just go kill more slugs."
We're leaving on vacation this afternoon. When most bloggers say that it means a hiatus, during which you have to imagine them frolicking about happily, well-fed, mildly intoxicated, and utterly carefree, with no word for at least a week. But since we're back at Tyler Place again, instead you'll have to imagine us frolicking about happily, well-fed, mildly intoxicated, and utterly carefree...with no children. Except, I hastily add, during the happy afternoon hours of family time, which is much the same except that you may delete the liquor and replace it with ponies and/or trampolines. So with some extra time on my hands, I'll probably be posting more this week, if only to gasp holy Jesus gay, do I love this place.