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… it’s the final kick, digging deep, rounding the bases and heading for home alone.

The school supplies are packed, the backpacks bulging with loose-leaf paper and expectations.  The boys have new clothes, new shoes (cue foreshadowing music here) and shaggy haircuts, but two out of three ain’t bad.  This has been the happiest summer I have ever spent with the boys, but it is time.  My master plan — to make the last couple weeks as painfully dull as possible — has produced the desired result: they are looking forward to school.

Inaction as action is one of my favorite strategies.

One is off to junior high, and one to the top of the elementary school food chain; already I can see that this year will have its share of life lessons.  I am steeling myself and hoping for minimal wailing and gnashing of teeth.  The Little One is kicking off the life lesson parade with his first major purchase, one he may regret, or love.  Time will tell.

That Little One, he is, well, let’s just say he is frugal with his own money.  He takes great pride in his sizeable savings of birthday money and holiday cash, his two previous sole sources of income.  (Other than those few years long ago when he agreed to pick up the dog poo for $0.25 per pile, which was a deal too good to last once he grew more wise to the ways of the world.  I am only slightly ashamed — that may go down as the greatest scam I ever pulled off as a parent.)

Recently, he came to me with an offer I could not refuse:  he volunteered to clean the litterbox and feed the cats every day in exchange for an allowance.  Now, both kids are expected to do regular chores around the house as part of being a family.  An allowance came recently for the Professor to give him both greater responsibility and freedom. The Little One would receive the same privilege at the same age.

But the cat box?  This offer showed great initiative I thought, and bravery.   Plus, in the grand division of labor that is Every Marriage, cleaning the litterbox was one of my tasks so I was more than happy to pawn it off.  The kid offered for goodness sake, who was I to crush his entrepreneurial spirit?

So he scooped and bagged and cleaned and fed, and collected his cash.

“Wow, I inspire hard work,” I thought to myself with satisfaction.

Not too many weeks later, The Little One came to me with a request for new shoes for school.  Keep in mind, we have taken great pride that neither boy has ever been the kind to beg for the latest toy or clothes or… shoes.  No ipad, or iphone, or other i-thingy, no cell phone, or PSP.  New, clean shoes for school — reasonable enough.  But this kid, this time, was not interested in regular ole’ shoes — this was the first ever request for Special Shoes, the kind that are advertised every seven minutes during every major televised sporting event, the ones with snazzy new features that are “like an energy drink for your feet”.

For the price of these shoes?  The energy drink should also wash those feet.

Hmmm, looked like a life lesson to me.  I told him I would pay the amount of a typical pair of school shoes, and he would have to pay for the rest.  Tightwad that he is, that would put an end to this nonsense.

I underestimated the fortitude of a tween.

So he bought these shoes — we had to order them online because no local store carried his size — and he handed me the wad of cash right after I pushed the “Submit Order” button on the website.  Now he waits for The Shoes to arrive.

Will the shoes even be comfortable?  Will he regret this purchase, and be filled with buyer’s remorse?  Will the shoes still fit pubescent feet three months from now?  These are not my problems, I have to keep reminding myself.  Will he wear them proudly with a new (highly energized) spring in his step?  I will soon find out.  I offered him my advice and guidance, and let him make the decision.  I figure a lesson in spending is worth the price.  And, I no longer needed to go the ATM that day.

One lesson that can’t be jammed into the backpack, and they have not even left home yet.  (Can anyone else hear the wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round?)