But savings has a price. And that price, my friends, is hoarding.The school receives money from the efforts of our hard-working PTA, the financially secure parents contribute and volunteer frequently, plus the teachers and admin workers generously use their own money to buy extra items not covered in the budget. Much of this money is spent on Smart Boards (computer chalkboards), books, and other supplies.
But some of the money, apparently, is spent on treats.My six-year-old has never met a little plastic doodad he didn’t like. Tiny globes, pencil erasers, rubber robots; if it is colorful and fits in the palm of your hand, he wants to keep it forever.
The problem is: our particular school tends to reward our children with stuff. Think party favors on steroids. My son fills out his reading log for a week after reading 20 minutes nightly? He gets a prize. He has good behavior in class for a week? Another prize. Sits still in Spanish class while the teacher introduces the names for Spanish fruits? That is a prize-worthy moment.We are drowning in these miniature tokens of my child’s myriad first grade achievements. Is this education or consumerism?
If I “accidentally” throw away one of these carefully guarded treasures, the sky fills with angry clouds and vibrations of impending thunder and black doom.“Noooooooooooooooooo! Mommy, I can’t find my parachuting ninja! You know, the special one the librarian gave everyone? Mine was red.” Tears, tears, and more tears, which quickly morph into full-blown sobbing.
I sheepishly go to the trash can when he is not looking and retrieve it. It was buried underneath a gum wrapper—that’s how small these rewards are.I give him back his prize (an item that he had not played with in three months), and I am suddenly the hero—if only for a moment.
Please don’t think I am a mean person. If you came over to our house, you would see that we already have plenty of things like these from birthday parties, dentist visits, fast-food outings, and a year of kindergarten at the same school. We have reached a saturation level of cheap plastic junk. It is everywhere. I step on it in the middle of the night. It lodges in the vacuum (who am I kidding—I am too lazy to vacuum). The cat bats the stuff around like it is her God-given right.I find mini-alligators under pillows, bouncy balls in the tub, and neon green erasers in coat pockets.
When will it end?Oh, yeah, when they are 18 and go off to college.
And then I will be sad.Note to school: Please send more symbols of childhood home with my son. We will make room for them.