Savings and Loan

I can’t wait to see how this plays-out. I’m already making bets. Who won’t get past a weekly urge to empty their “spend” envelope for chocolate bars? Who will show themselves the real saver? Who’s going to shirk responsibility because the payoff isn’t enough? This could be fun.
We’re starting an allowance system this weekend. It’s likely overdue, but then I was a late bloomer. I’ve been prepping (ok, teasing) the kids for weeks. When I announced the creation of “Dad’s Savings and Loan”, I was an instant hero. Hugs all around. Three cheers for dad! Visions of Legos, American Girls and tech gadgets danced through my children’s dreamy heads.
Cue Mr. Reality (that’s me). As I basked in their adulations, I kept the proverbial wet blanket hidden. A blanket that would squash their plans to stimulate the economy. Their questions of “How much?” were answered with “Not as much as you’re thinking.” This was followed by a careful review of the “fine print” from the savings and loan. The blanket landed with a thud. Smiles flattened. A somber tone rolled across the dinner table as Toys R’ Us dreams shrunk to Dollar Store reality. Entitlement was trumped by expectation. The “Comm-ocracy” had exerted its power.

{sidebar: “Comm-ocracy is my tongue-in-cheek term for our  family political system. It blends elements of Communism (“no soup for you!”) and Democracy (“let’s take a vote”). My kids understand that  I’m the Tsar. But I work hard at letting them know I am a benevolent ruler who wants to give generously of his soup.}
I might be painting a glum picture. It really wasn’t that bad. Some suppositions needed correcting, but overall the proposed system of redistribution was well received. The kids are giddy. Katrina and I are glad for a new mechanism we can leverage toward character development. And, it will be nice to go to the store and return questions of “Can I get this?” with “How much is in your ‘saved’ envelope?” A wave of peace is washing over me already. I might actually want to grocery shop.
Not really.
What I do want is to teach my kids stewardship. Money is a nice vehicle to talk about worth, desire and power. Money can consume or create. Taunt or transform. Strangle or set free. The opening of our little savings and loan is ripe with opportunity.
The children’s allowance is an opportunity for me as well. I like money – even in small denominations. So, when considering the outlay required to fund the system for five children, an angst growls inside me. Those funds represent a fair amount of Starbucks drinks. And books. And other little indulgences Katrina and I might desire. But such desires need a daily wrestling. They must not pin me down.
Sacrificing desire is part of being a parent. Now, parenting isn’t a lifeless prison. Desires do find release and expression. But the call of parenthood necessitates delayed gratification. Like exchanging a hot dinner now for a cold one after the baby is fed. Driving a car scratched by bicycle handlebars. Walking over (and mourning) the Kool-Aid stain in the carpet – day-after-day.
Worth, desire, power and sacrifice is part of managing money. And parenting. They’re also part of a larger stewardship. God has commissioned each of us to manage His gifts to us of time, talent and resource. How I steward my material, physical and relational capital reflect my beliefs about God. Do I relate with grace, or only truth? Do I value people and handle them with loving fragility? Or do I toss them around like logs on a wood pile? Do my desires blind me to the needs of others?
In 1722, famous American preacher, writer and theologian Jonathon Edwards made a series of resolutions. Number 17 on his list was this: “[I am] resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.” That’s a proper English way of saying, “No regrets!” Live today in ways you want to be remembered. Slow down. Prioritize. Savor. Teach. Learn. Listen. Give. An excellent resolution birthed from a long-sighted viewpoint.
Good stewardship of each moment, relationship, thought, word and deed. I want that for me. I want it for my children. To give generously of ourselves. To spend time and use talents wisely and completely. To save and plan for special and spontaneous opportunities that foster redemptive relationships.
My prayer is that a wee bit of weekly allowance will be good for my family. A catalyst that opens our eyes, ears, hearts and souls to God’s big story. Encouraging us to live moment-by-moment, with no regrets.

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