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Saving For Sophistication

In our house, our rewards system is jewels
– glass pieces bought in bulk at the local craft store. Girls
can earn them by doing extra chores, but they’re just as
often given one for performing an outstanding act of kindness or
going above and beyond on something. The jewels aren’t a
privilege, in that it’s not something they can lose by bad
behavior: once they get one, it’s theirs until they spend it.
I supposed it’s our precursor to an allowance.

There are a variety of ways the girls can spend their jewels, but
it’s roughly one jewel to one dollar. If Cora sees some tacky
plastic play phone or something, I’ll tell her she needs to
save her jewels for it, look at the price, and name an amount of
jewels. A week later Cora will come back to the store with her
jewels clutched in her hand, the magnificent piece of crap now
hers. So oftentimes the girls will say, “How many jewels does
this cost?” and I’ll throw out a quick number.

One day, Maddie said, “Mommy, how
many jewels does an iPod cost?” “Oh, a lot, honey, a
lot,” I answered. Maddie pressed on, “Like, how
many?” I tried to think of a number that was almost
impossibly high while not being so high she couldn’t picture
it. “IPods cost a hundred jewels, baby,” I said, and
left it at that.

A few weeks later Maddie announced she was saving for an iPod.

I felt pretty secure in that, knowing she’d never saved more
than twenty jewels at a time before spending them.

Maddie now has sixty-seven jewels.

My hope is that she’ll get somewhat close- say, eighty-five
or ninety – near Christmastime, and we can buy her one for
Christmas and tell her the rest of the jewels are our present to
her. Because my child doesn’t just want any iPod – she
wants an iPod Touch, like Mommy’s. And she’s working so
hard for it that I’m not going to go back on my end of it.

We have a couple “family” iPods already in circulation,
with all Cora and Maddie’s favorite songs on them. And
I’ve asked Maddie why she needs her own when she has instant
access to two or three at any given time. “It will make me
feel like a teenager,” Maddie said. “It seems like a
very grown-up thing to own.”


Maddie has an outfit she considers her “teenager”
outfit: a pair of embroidered jeans paired with a t-shirt covered
in butterflies and rhinestones. And I have to admit, when I see my
leggy daughter in her slim jeans and fitted t-shirt, she’s
not so far from that point. She wore the outfit on Saturday, and
said the only thing missing from making her feel like a real
teenager in that outfit was an iPod. She’s even picked out
what color skin she wants on it.

I think she’s ready for the responsibility of an iPod: she
knows it can’t go to school, and she’s not allowed to
play games on it without permission. And I see her developing her
own taste in music (which unfortunately includes a little Taylor
Swift, thank you, gym class) so I know she’ll appreciate that
aspect of it. And heaven knows she’s been working hard enough
to save up for it: she’s been saving since the spring, and
doing such impossible things as leaving silky at home to earn
jewels for it. I see all that, and know it’ll be fine.

But I worry that this is her first step in trying to look cool, or
older, or have the “right” stuff. That she wants it for
what it represents, and not for what it can actually do for her. I
know that’s not true, at least mostly: she really does want
it for the music. But I see a teeny part of her yearning for an
iPod for the sophistication she thinks will come with it. I know
there’s a part of her mind that sees herself as some
indescribably hip thirteen-year-old, with a custom-skinned iPod
nonchalantly hanging out of her back pocket.

And I’m just not ready to see my baby that grown up.


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