Earlier this week he discovered that it was his responsibility to plan the menus, do the shopping, and cook the food for a scout campout his troop was going on this weekend.
Due to his play rehearsal/dance class/school schedule, and my work schedule, the only time he could do it was immediately after school on Friday. And even at that, it would involve me picking him up at school and dropping him off at the grocery store with his backpacking pack and wallet so he could do the shopping and walk home with the purchases. We would then quickly load up and I would drop them off with their scout leaders to leave on the campout. He knew how much money he had in his checking account, and he had a few dollars in his wallet, so he knew what his budget absolutely had to be.
Friday came and I dropped him off at the store, then quickly drove home to teach piano lessons, hoping that the experience would be positive for him. He arrived home about 45 minutes later all the wiser.
Lesson #1 learned: "Good" hot dogs are expensive. He only had enough money to buy 21 hot dogs, and 24 buns.There was a slim chance that there were going to be 13 people, but more likely 8, so he was crossing his fingers that only the lower number would show up.
Lesson #2 learned: Chocolate bars for s'mores are also not cheap when not on sale. So he didn't buy any, and decided they could all just roast marshmallows and snack on graham crackers.
Lesson #3 learned: When you buy pancake mix, it's important to read what other ingredients might be required and purchase them as well. That didn't happen.
Lesson #4 learned: Two bottles of catsup and two bottles of mustard are overkill for only 21 hot dogs.
Lesson #5 learned: When you spend ALL of your money on groceries, you are much more motivated to turn in your receipts for reimbursement. And quickly return all unused items to the store!
I am so glad that he was forced to have this opportunity. I realize it doesn't seem like a big deal, but really, how many 14 year olds are going shopping for their families or an event these days? Probably not enough. I remember being of a similar age when my Mom dropped me off at the Pathmark in Somerville, NJ with a grocery list and money, and met me there later after her other errands or appointments.Shopping with a list and a budget is an important skill, and frankly one that I probably wouldn't have thought to give him yet.
It made me also remember being dropped off at the laundromat around that same time to wash the giant blankets and sleeping bags. That's probably another experience I should give my kids one of these days so there's one less obstacle to grown up life.
In the past, I've given my kids a few dollars to run up to the grocery store for bread and milk, but that was different. It was my money and with only one or two items on the list, it was a bit of a lark for them. Not that that experience didn't help prepare for this experience, but if the issue hadn't been forced, I probably would have kept on in that way for a few more years.
I'm grateful for the not so painful opportunities my children get to learn some basic life skills.