Money Spent at the County Fair

One of summer’s greatest pleasures is a day at the county fair,
and much of fun, certainly, is simply the anticipation. All of the
advertisements make it sound so exciting. They always promise
clowns, displays, entertainment, deep fried Twinkies, exotic
animals, carnival rides and more.
One of summer’s greatest pleasures is a day at the county fair, and much of fun, certainly, is simply the anticipation. All of the advertisements make it sound so exciting. They always promise clowns, displays, entertainment, deep fried Twinkies, exotic animals, carnival rides and more. Sure, it sounds like a perfect day, but I warn you, pay close attention to the words

and more.”

This is code for all of the activities you will have to pay for, that aren’t included in the admission price. Which is, well, just about everything.

But this year I vowed things would be different because, tricky me, I had a plan. Right before we went through the gates I gave each of my children a twenty-dollar bill and said, “This is your money for food, rides, and souvenirs.” I could tell by the way they stared at me and then at the money and then back at me, that they couldn’t believe their sudden windfall.

Ok, admit it. It‚s a good plan. Maybe not right up there with wrinkle-free laundry and self-cleaning ovens, but close. I mean, it would not only teach my children the value of a dollar, but let them exert their independence, give them choices, and make them feel powerful. And it would also save me money. Lots and lots of money.

And, hey, it worked.

In fact, as we made our way down the carnival midway they passed right by the ice cream booth and the deep fried Oreo booth without so much as a second glance.

And when we got to the ride section they completely ignored the giant slide, a ride cleverly called the Giant Slide. Mind you, this was the very same Giant Slide I spent $50 in tickets for them to ride on over and over again last year.

It wasn’t until my son suggested going to the free petting zoo so he could “get closer to nature,” that I began to suspect something fishy.

My hunch was confirmed when, over the next two hours, they visited the free water booth 18 times, the petting zoo twice and had nothing to eat but pretzel samples filched from the gourmet dip booth.

“How about something fun to eat?” I said. “Like a chocolate covered banana? A bag of kettle corn? A deep friend Ho-Ho?”

“Oh, we’re not hungry,” they said practically in unison. “But we’d really like to visit the cell phone booth before they’re out of those cool paper fans.”

“Ah-ha!” My suspicious were confirmed. “You’re trying to save your money, aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with this, mind you. But these are the very same kids who drop my ten-dollar bills on movie popcorn and juju bees without so much as flinching.

So, as a conscientious parent, I now had two choices. I could 1) stick to my principles and teach them a valuable life lesson or 2) forget about the lesson and buy them a corn dog and a pile of ride tickets with MY money.

I’m not going to bother telling you which one I picked, but I will say that their eyes lit up as they charged off toward the Giant Slide.

Oh, all right.

I know this is exactly the kind of precedent setting that parenting experts are always warning you about. The kind that will turn kids into entitled adults and irresponsible spenders and junk bond traders and all that. But, hey, what was I supposed to do? In my defense, I couldn’t very well say in public, “For gosh sakes, stop saving your money and go buy a deep friend Twinkie, RIGHT THIS INSTANT!” Could I?

But, on the other hand, there’s something equally wrong about two kids spending a day at the county fair with nothing to show for it but free pencils imprinted with the names of local realtors. Right? RIGHT?

And that’s what I kept telling myself later that evening when we walked to the car and my son pulled a twenty dollar bill out of his pocket and said incredulously, “Look! I have all of my money left.”

“Me, too,” my 11-year-old said. “Hey, if we combine it we’ll have enough for a new Nintendo game.”

And, folks, I didn’t even scream.

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