I often ‘borrow’ money from my children. I am always out of change for lunch money or snack money. So I tell them ‘Just take it out of your money jar, I will pay you back!’ I keep a mental count on how much I owe them and pay them back with a little interest…..most of the times. Sahana has smartened up lately, she puts all her money in a bank account and keeps nothing at home. Young Ryan loves his money jar and he can be seen, often times, sitting in a corner, counting his pennies and nickels. I look at him and think ‘Shylock’ in my head!
Recently, I took three dollars from the above mentioned, precious money jar and asked Sean to pay him back. Since we vowed to take care of each other at our marriage, we fulfil our promise. I take care of his nourishment, his laundry, our children, he takes care of me in tricky situations, like when I have to repay my debt!
The following conversation is a result of my eavesdropping. And I am recording this because I want Ryan to read this write-up when he is doing his Major in Math at Harvard!
Before Ryan’s bedtime, Sean went to return the three dollars and decided to make it a teaching moment as well.
‘Ryan, how much is 10 minus 7?’
‘3! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, all the way to Japaneze!’
‘Right, big guy! So I am giving you $10 and taking $7!’
A moment of silence, then a cry of desperation,
‘WHY ARE YOU TAKING $7 FROM MY MONEY JAR???’
‘But I am giving you $10 and taking $7! So you get back your $3! Remember you said 10 minus 7 is 3! So 7 plus 3 is 10! You had 7, now I am giving you 10 but taking away your 7! So you see, you have the $3 back that mommy took from you.’
At this point, I believe Sean proceeded to take his $7 back.
‘NO! NO! DON’T TAKE MY $7! I will give you four pennies if you give me that $10!’
More math. More teaching, a few moments of silence and then desperate pleading.
‘Take four pennies dad, for that $10! Not $7…..!’ Sniffles added at this point!
Sean said they will talk about it the next day and left it at that!
The next morning, when Ryan woke up for school, he rubbed his eyes, sat right up on the bed and said in a groggy, morning voice, ‘Can I have my $10 dollars, dad?’
We will talk about it tonight!’ I think Sean was scared to broach the subject…. understandably. He decided to break the ten at a store and give the boy 3 one dollar bills. He also thought of using poker chips or something of lesser value than $10 to teach this complex math fact!
Once, when Ryan was about four, I was trying to teach him subtraction. I made the mistake of saying, ‘Ry, if you have 5 candies and you give 3 candies to Sahana, how many candies will you have left?’ Without missing a beat, he said, ‘I don’t want to give ANY candies to Sahana!’ I debated which lesson to teach him at that moment! The lesson of sharing or subtraction! Decided to go with math, just had Sahana give her candies to Ryan. Things went smoothly from then on!
Tonight, before going to bed, I found Ryan standing quietly in front of Sean’s bedside table.
‘What are you doing here, buddy?’ I asked.
‘Trying to see where daddy put MY $10 dollars!’
Sean and I both looked at each other and then the letter proudly stuck on our refrigerator, saying, ‘Your child, Ryan Callahan has been invited to a first grade Math instructional seminar in school….’ It is an early form of Gifted and Talented program in Math!