Here’s a dilemma that came up with my eleven year old daughter. She came home from school yesterday ten dollars richer, thanks to another classmate who insisted she take this money for no apparent reason. Naturally, I told her she had to give it back and naturally, she did not want to. “That money comes with a huge danger sign attached to it,” I told her. She disagreed and insisted she couldn’t give it back, and that it would be rude to do so. She said she had told the girl at the time the money was offered, that it was too much, but the girl wanted her to have it. “She’s trying to buy your friendship and it’s not okay,” I said. Round and round we went.
This is no doubt a particularly frustrating (and tempting) situation for my daughter because she is not a child who ever receives money from outside sources. She has no grandparents, and her aunts and uncles are in no better financial shape than we are. While all of her friends get money as well as gifts on both birthdays and special occasions, she does not. Whenever she wants to buy anything, she has to ask me and pray that I say yes. I’m sure that money looked real good to her. It looked pretty good to me, too. However, it just wasn’t right.
I finally told my daughter that if she did not return the money, not only would she be grounded, but I would be forced to call the child’s mother. I was fairly certain she’d rather I not do that, and sure enough, this morning she reluctantly agreed to tell the girl that I wouldn’t allow her to keep the money. I suggested she make me the villain, but told her to make no mistake about it, this had been a gift with strings attached, regardless of whether or not those strings had been immediately visible.
It’s sad that kids sometimes feel the need to buy friends. I’m still not sure that I shouldn’t be calling this child’s parents, and yet from the stories I’ve heard, I suspect this apple has not fallen far from the tree and that it would be a waste of time. What do you think? Am I wrong to simply use this as the opportunity to teach my own child about another of life’s lessons? Namely that nothing in life is free. Every action has a consequence, and she needs to be aware of that.
Bridget Straub is a writer, mom and eternal optimist. She has three children she loves dearly, as well as four novels in need of a publisher and one musical on its way to production. You can follow her at bridgetstraub.com.