The black man who approached from the rear of the gathering at my father's burial looked to be one hundred years old. He was frail, but not bent. He walked haltingly, supported by two black... [+]
My eight-year-old grandson, Soleil, has been interested for a long time in money—saving it, counting it, spending it, and talking about it. I can visualize him being a banker in a family of hippies, like the character of Michael J. Fox in the 80s' comedy "Family Ties." I see him with a clean-cut haircut, wearing a suit and tie, trying to persuade his father to finally cut his longer-than-shoulder-length hair. Sometimes when I go over to his house, he proudly shows me his stash of bills, and tells me how much he has saved. Yesterday he said he had three hundred dollars. One might think this interest would make him miserly, but it is the opposite. Soleil loves to spend his money on other people. The other day when I said I was going to the corner store to buy some potato chips, Soleil took out his money and handed me five dollars. He wanted to pay for it. A few months ago he was in the drug store with his grandfather and wanted to buy a model car with his own money. His grandfather Gary insisted on paying. Later that night, Gary opened the drawer of his night table to get something. To his shock he discovered a five dollar bill. Soleil had secretly put it there! As grandparents, our first response has always been to say that things he wants are our treat, that he should save his money. But I have begun to realize that this is depriving him of the power and pleasure of paying for himself and of treating us.
A few months ago, Soleil announced that he wanted to buy me a present. Knowing what I like, he said it would be a beautiful necklace with a gemstone. I was so touched. "Grandma, I am going to spend a hundred dollars on a necklace for you," he said proudly. I told him that was too much money, and maybe twenty dollars would be more reasonable. He agreed. Soon enough, he presented me with a lovely necklace made of multi-colored beads and a white pendant. My grandson has excellent taste!
Soleil understood from an early age that offering to pay for things confers a grown-up status and adult power. I don't want to deprive him of that. So I no longer protest. As I was leaving his house recently, he shoved four singles into my hand. "Grandma, next time you're at the drug store, could you please buy me some spicy chips and a Gatorade?" Soleil also has a good sense of how much things cost. The bill was almost exactly four dollars!