Archive for August 24th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Spawn came home all excited about prizes. 

What prizes, you ask?  Why, the prizes the kid could “win” by selling something. 

Every year we go through this nonsense, and every year it fires me up. 

The enlightened minds that comprise our school’s PTO start off the school year every year with a fundraiser.  Usually it’s a catalog of overpriced and unnecessary goods, things like scented candles and cookie dough and wrapping paper.  The first year they sent this load of hooey home, I was able to ignore it because Spawn wasn’t tuned in enough to the concept of “winning” a “prize” for selling something.  By first grade, though, I was caught. 

The insidious trap set by the PTO goes like this:  they send their minions into the classrooms to explain about the “prizes” they can “win” while they completely gloss over the concept of selling from the catalog.  They get the kids all whipped up into a froth over light-up pens and klackers and squishable pigs — items that could easily be attained, in bulk, from Oriental Trading Company, for pennies — and send them roaring out into the homes and offices of their families to sell, sell, sell.  Of course the only thing the kids can focus on is the prizes they “win” for selling two items, three items, one hundred items.  (By the way, the top level selling of 150 items would earn a prize of an electric guitar and amp.  I suspect it would just be cheaper to buy the guitar and amp outright.) 

Boy oh boy do I ever have a problem with this. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of selling stuff as a kid.  I sold cookies as a girl scout and M&Ms for 4-H, and later, ads for the senior high annual.  Back then there weren’t as many kids out there selling stuff, so it was an easy sell for the most part.  Nowadays it seems everybody is selling something, not just the scouts or the band or the sports teams.  Everybody’s kid or grandkid or niece/nephew is hitting you up for something.  And for people who have more than one kid, I don’t know how they do it. 

Of course I could talk until I’m blue in the face to Spawn about how it’s just a racket and the stuff is expensive and the “prizes” are cheap junk, but at the end of the day the kid just wants to belong, just like any of us would.  When they’re passing out the “prizes” my kid wants to get one (or two) just like everybody else.  And so, because I remember what it’s like to want to fit in, I buy some of the overpriced stuff and also coerce my mother into buying something, too.  But since there is no one else to sell to — no siblings, no office staff — it’s a pretty small order.  Certainly not enough to merit a guitar and amp. 

I sometimes find it difficult to balance my pocketbook with the delicate psyche of my 4th grader. 

— Mox

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