We began doling out allowance money to the boys at the end of last year. They need both the money and the experience of learning how to handle it. We did ask them to put away half of each month's allowance into their little banks as a savings, but that was the only stipulation we've made regarding the money. The remaining half is theirs to spend however they choose.
At the moment, every penny of their spending money immediately goes on the fiendishly addictive Match Attax football trading cards. In my parental eyes, they are nothing but a crafty little scheme cooked up by the powers that be in order to create and maintain a generation of mini-consumers. However, in the eyes of my three boys, they are Exciting! Incredible! Worth every penny! All three boys spend their allowance almost before it hits their pockets each month. So if they want to acquire any more cards after their money is gone, they must be incredibly creative. And they are.
The anticipation that sets in upon a trip to town is palpable. There is this sense that money will somehow be discovered, though we do not yet know not how. Mr J suddenly finds a previously forgotten fifty pence coin in his coat pocket keeping company with a guitar plectrum and a pebble. A trip to the stationary shop now becomes a necessity, for 50p is the exact amount needed for one pack of Match Attax. On our walk into town, The Boys and Mr J are already bubbling about the potential gold contained within their not-yet-made purchase.
Before we can go to the stationers, however, we must visit Boots, the local high street pharmacy. I stand in line with a pack of disposable nappies while the three boys crawl along the floor in front of the tills scrambling to scoop up the dropped coins underneath. When we leave, they have accumulated £2.40 in change. At the stationers, they now have enough between them to pay for five packs of Match Attax.
We stop at our local Starbucks for a much-needed hot drink. Coo snoozes in her pushchair while the three boys set about opening up their packs of cards. Contained within each pack are six cards, most likely ones they already have in their collection. But when that magic pack is ripped open and an anticipated or genuinely prayed for card drops out, their joy is indescribable.
The Boys and Mr J throw away the pack wrappers, methodically organise the cards into piles, and quickly finish off their drinks. It's now time to enter into the next phase of scavenging. While Mr J remains at the table talking to himself and to the footballers depicted on the cards, Righty and Lefty trot straight to the basket near the till, filled to the brim with bottles of water. Slowly and carefully, they remove every single bottle of water from the basket. At the bottom, loose change dropped by customers surfaces. They pick out the coins, then gently replace the water bottles. Generously, they throw a couple of unnecessary pennies into the tip box near the till. The addition of this most recent find to their remaining forty pence totals just what they need for another pack of Match Attax.
We make our second and last stop at the stationers, where they happily purchase this final, triumphant pack from a bemused clerk, and march home.
They seat themselves at the kitchen table, painstakingly place every single accrued card into its slot in their book, tick it off on a collection checklist, and stack the remaining extra cards in a "swaps tin".
Watching all of this, I'm torn. In a logical way, my mind rages against Senseless Consumerism and the Topps Football People who are earning way too much money stealing from the pocket allowance of small children.
Instinctively, though, I cannot deny a sense of pride. In a non-consumeristic way, my little scavengers have collected their needed coinage from the most unlikely places, paid The Man, and enjoyed the proceeds of their purchase.