Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mom's tuck shop

While I was adding a new recipe to my cookery blog this morning, I remembered the little tuck shop that I had for my kids when they were really small. I remembered it with great fondness, but it occurred to me that it might fill some people with horror that I was prepared to take money from my children. In fact, it was a wonderful learning experience for us all, so I thought I might share it here:

When the kids were little, I chose not to go back to work full time, operating instead as a freelance training consultant with a few other odds and ends thrown into the mix, and working on an ad hoc basis. This choice meant that money was tight. So we couldn't really afford to give our children large amounts of pocket money, but we did want them to learn about having money, spending it, saving it and so on. We knew that they would want to buy sweets, but a single packet of sweeties cost more than we could afford to give them. So I hit on the idea of Mom's tuck shop.

I would buy packets of sweeties and empty them into a large Tupperware cake container. I also used to make things myself (one of which is on my cookery blog today) to go into the container. Then, each day after lunch, I would open Mom's tuck shop. I would stand one one side of the kitchen counter, and they would stand on chairs on the other with their coins clasped in their little fists and select individual sweeties from what was on offer. There was a whole role play thing involved. I would call them 'young sir' and talk to them as if they were terribly important customers whose patronage was the highlight of my day (which, I don't mind telling you, it was - I'm all choked up, just remembering it!).

Of course, the sweets were heavily subsidised. I didn't want to make my money back. I wanted them to experience the purchasing process. Looking back now: the early spending patterns are still in evidence. My elder son was somewhat tight with his money. He carefully figured out how to get the largest return in his investment, and would often choose to go without rather than part with his wealth. This is still the case today. My younger son bought two of everything: one for him, and one for "Daddy, when he comes home." I don't think Daddy ever tasted anything sweeter! My younger son is still generous to a fault, and will happily blow everything he has on a single gift (but he is learning a little caution).

Of course, they sometimes wanted to buy things that weren't available from the tuck shop. Then they would have to save up to go to a real shop. And this meant standing by while the other child bought his daily sweeties - going without for the sake of the reward being saved for. It used to break my heart to see the longing, but it was an important lesson, so I clenched my teeth and took a big girl pill.

I have to confess that the interest rates on savings accounts at the Bank of Dad were brilliant: save for five weeks and you'll get double! My elder son often went that route. My younger son, not so much.

Mom's tuck shop didn't form part of our lives in England - by then both boys were at school, and the English school day goes on into the afternoon (unlike the South African school day which ended at lunch time). When they were 13, our boys were switched from pocket money to an allowance, with which they had to buy their own clothes, airtime, toiletries, etc. (except for anything to do with school or sports club commitments) we carry those costs.

When they hit 18, the allowance is increased to include train fares, and they have to learn to budget for the termly expense.

But I will never forget Mom's tuck shop. Maybe I will introduce it with my grandchildren one day...

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