Originally posted at the former Chicago Moms Blog on June 16 2010
Sillybands taught me a lesson on when to step in and when to step back...
Anyone with a child from the ages of 3-12 knows EXACTLY what Sillybandz are. On the off chance that you haven't been sucked into the latest fad of the year; briefly explained, they are little rubber bands that kids wear on their wrists. When removed, these colorful bracelets snap into an assortment of cool shapes. It's uncommon to see a group of children without bands covering their forearms in my town. Really, they're an adorable fad and I was happy to buy a couple of packets for my children to share. They divided up 2 packs of 20 between all 3 and each had several to wear and trade with their friends. My sons were mildly interested in them, but it was my 4 year old daughter who gleefully raced into our yard as soon as we got home to flaunt her precious bracelets. Each time she dashed back inside, she sported a different assortment from her many trades with the neighborhood girls.
"Remember," I cautioned, "only trade 1 for 1. Don't be taken advantage of!"
"Ok, Mommy! I'll be careful!" and off she went...
By day two, the 9 bracelets she had started off with were down to 7.
"Where'd they go?" I asked. "Did you give some to the kids who didn't have any?"
"No, I traded them with Missy*. She said I had to give her 2 for this one because it's RARE!"
I sighed and reminded her that she now had only 7. "If you keep trading 2 for 1, you'll end up with only one!" She swore up and down that she would take better care of this uncommon privilege I had allotted her. (My family is one that has suffered the joys of the wonderful economic status that is all too common. The $4 I spent on the bands was definitely a well-thought-out decision).
Another day passed. As she was getting ready for bed, I saw her wrist with only 2 bracelets on it. I am not proud of the way that I reacted. I actually YELLED at my 4 year old for trading away all of her precious rubber bands. My initial response was (and still is) anger at the fact that my child was taken advantage of. Her desire to be included in the trading and bartering of the older kids resulted in a nearly empty wrist that I refuse to purchase more bracelets for. I vented my anger to my husband and he voiced what my first plan of action had been, "Why not just call her mom and ask for them back?"
Sigh... I could. I could easily call my neighbor and explain how her daughter's collection (which is already well over 200 bracelets!) had recently grown. It would be simple and my own anger would be assuaged.
BUT. But this is a life lesson that I believe is extremely important. While it is admirable to be generous with your belongings and to share with your friends, you can become an easy target for those who covet your goodies. There is a difference between giving a precious bracelet to a child who doesn't have any and having an older friend that you trust convincing you that the piece of rubber SHE has is more valuable than the piece of rubber YOU have. I know that learning this lesson at 4 may just save her some grief in her teen or adult years. And, if she has to get ripped off by a loved one, I'd rather she get gypped out of $.60 of rubber bands.
*Not her real name