Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Rummage Sale Blues

This week was my kids' school's annual rummage sale. In case I've failed to mention it, my boys attend a little three room school house, and there are only about seventy kids in their K-6th school. It's a close little family, to say the least.

As usual, my boys (L ten, and N eight) have been drooling over the treasures to be "rummaged" since the sale opened on Tuesday, and by Thursday night they were dying to make their purchases. This year, I decided that rather than go with them, I'd let them take five dollars of their own money to spend however they wanted.

Friday morning as we're getting ready to walk out the door, we have the following conversation:

Me: N, how much money do you have in your wallet?

N (without hesitation): Five dollars.

M: L, how much do you have?

L: Uh, fifteen.

(Keep in mind N is sitting right there, listening to all of this)

Me: I don't think so, I said you could take five.

I then sent him to put ten back in his cash box, and (again, with Niall right there watching) counted what was left in his wallet to make sure he'd put enough back. All the way to school they talked about the things they had their eye on, and how they hoped no one else would get there first.

At this little school of ours, most kids get picked up by parents rather than riding the bus. So every day after school, I pull through the drive and sit there while the teachers or aides find, collect, and deliver my children to my car. I've had children in this school for five years now, and we all know each other very well.

Imagine my surprise on Friday, when as I pull around the drive I see all the aides start snickering, and trying not to smile as they see me pull in. Confused, I quickly review: Am I at the wrong School? No. Is today one of the days I'm not supposed to pick them up till 4:00? No. Do I have food on my face? No. So I park, and wait as Mrs. W approaches my window while Mrs. P gathers my kids. Mrs. W and I have the following conversation:

Mrs. W: Well you might as well pull back around to the front door, because you've got some loading to do. (quickly hides laughter by coughing into her hand)

Me: Loading?

Mrs. W: Oh yes, your kids made quite a haul at the rummage sale today. Most of it's still inside.

She added this last as I looked over to see L carrying a small end table to the car.

Me (Looking rather confused, and slightly concerned): How much did they spend?

Mrs. W: I have no idea, but N sure got a lot of stuff. Unfortunately none of us were out there while he was, uh, shopping, and the parents running the sale just let him keep buying.

At this point I, got out of my car and headed for the school as I informed her that the boys each had a limit of five dollars.

Mrs. W: Oh I'd say N spent quite a bit more than five.

I walked into the second grade class to see N - who's satisfied smile froze on his face as he saw me - standing amidst the following items: An exercise bike, an old manual typewriter, a standing lamp, a coat tree, a talking fish, a desk lamp, a world atlas, and various other small items.

It turns out he brought $32.00 - i.e., every bill in his possession. He'd spent $24.00 on his treasures, and (as tears filled his adorable and pathetic eyes) he tried to tell me he didn't know he was only supposed to bring $5.00.

Unfortunately (as illustrated by the above conversation from earlier that morning) we all know this to be a falsehood. A lie. A complete, and unquestionable untruth. I hate being a mother in these situations.

With a sigh and a grimace, and feelings of great regret, I informed him that because he had lied about how much money he had, he wasn't going to be able to keep any of it. Every last item - including the beloved typewriter AND the antiquated exercise bike - had to go back out to the sale.

And we hauled it all back.

And I felt horrible.

And he was very good about it, and even went back in and collected his funds all by himself.

This was seriously one of the hardest things I've ever had to do to to one of my kids. Did I mention how excited they were about this sale? Or how much my son wanted that typewriter? (His best friend quickly offered to buy it off him when he found out it was going back. Apparently it was a pretty hot item as none of them had ever seen one before). But I honestly couldn't think of anything else to do. Even letting him keep five dollars worth of goods didn't seem right. (Which is a blessing in disguise, since the price of the typewriter was exactly five dollars).

And now today, I have to reflect on this whole thing as it pertains to Mother's Day. Being a mom is not easy. Most of what we do (laundry, dishes, potty training, etc.) is not fun. Possibly the most unpleasant task of all however, is discipline and the stress of having the lives of these dear little people we love in our hands. I've often told my children (as I send them to their room, or take away their treasured possessions/privileges) that my most important task as their mother is to teach them right from wrong, and make sure they know that when they make bad choices, bad things happen.

What a rotten job. But when you think about it, it's a concept that will literally shape the rest of their lives. Integrity, accountability, and a love of the Savior and knowledge of his love for them are some of the most valuable gifts I could ever give my children. And if we all have to suffer a little heartbreak so they can learn these lessons, I have no doubt that it will be more than worth the pain. So, I'm sorry kids, for occasionally ruining your lives (I'm sure it will be an ongoing occurrence), but in the end if it means you're better, stronger, kinder, or more like your Savior, I have no doubt it will have been worth it to all of us.

And don't worry N, someday you'll get over the typewriter. I promise.


Shelley said...

Jen, truly you are such an inspiration to me. I wish I could have met you when you came down to visit Annie. I look forward each time I check the blog world for your posts.
I love what you said about mothering and all that comes with it. What you did with your son must have been SO hard, but I am impressed you stuck by your guns and followed through. You're a great example.
Happy Mothers Day!

Claire said...

i can't believe he bought an exercise bike..

Good for you on making him take his haul back... i would've reclaimed the money and spent it in the home baking section.

And then gone back to get the exercise bike..

Stephanie said...

You are such a great mother. You did a difficult thing but taught a great lesson and he'll most likely never forget it. It will be one that he will tell from the pulpit one day I am sure. :)
Thanks for your great example. Here's to a very happy Mother's Day to you.

McFarland Family said...

That is a fabulous story!

Machen family said...

I am so proud of you! What a great mom you are. That is a tough situation, but it's something he'll never forget.

Melissa Bastow said...

A typewriter huh? That would have been so useful too. He could have typed a novle while riding his exercise bike - if only there was a way to balance something like a typewriter on the handlebars of a bike...ok on second thought it was probably good to get rid of it all. And yes, motherhood is rotten. But your kids are very lucky to have you.

Kristin said...

At least now you know what to get him for Christmas. Also I can't believe you didn't tell me about the sale. Although I might have given some kid a black eye if they tried to out-rummage me. At least you gave me chocolate.

Anonymous said...

I have two words for you: Book Fair. Same story, second verse. Only we couldn't get our money back.

Discipline is a tough cookie to chew. But every once in a while, we let our kids punish themselves when they did something against the rules or whatever, and it gives them a taste of responsibility and accountability and it takes the smidge of guilt off our backs. The teenage yearlings seem to grasp the concept a little better than the younger ones, but still, they seem to "get it" quicker!

P.S. - I would love to see the pictures of the one room school house, though. There's not many of them in existence anymore, and if they are, they're usually abandoned, picturesque, and dilapidated relics that nobody seems to know what to do with.

jane said...

The visual alone of him and his pile of goods makes this story sooooo entertaining!

you are such a great mom.

happy mother's day! ;)

Natalie said...

Technically, he got a lot of stuff for the money! What a bargain shopper. ;-) I agree with Sue. Book fair can get ugly. Oh, the stories I could tell just from volunteering at the PTA book sales.

Kendra said...

Jen, good for you! Poor Niall, but really, poor you, too! You'll have to ask Mom about the time she took all us kids to the store and Carson asked for something when he wasn't supposed to...heart-wrenching story, just like yours! Love ya

Boy Mom said...

Discipline, is so hard! Way to go Mom!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Okay...I bow down to you... that is SOOOOO hard to do...I really don't know if I would have done that, but you KNOW he learned SO much through all that!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Good work, mom. The hardest stuff is the most important!

annie valentine said...

I would be anything that he was secretly relieved. There's nothing worse than Rummage Sale Remorse.

annie valentine said...

Uh, that's "bet" not "be".

Haynsy said...

Okay, the typewriter belongs in first place but you didn't let him keep the talking fish?

You're cold!

Laura said...

You put my and my over-soft heart to shame!!

LisAway said...

You are very awesome.

scrapintina said...

You are much nicer than I would have been. All the stuff would have gone back then the money would have remained a donation to the school fundraiser. Great job... Hugs, Tina