My eight year old daughter recently completed the economics unit for her third grade social studies class. I have to say that I have always felt this is a topic that should be taught early, as it has such a direct relation to our daily lives. It is some good shit to learn, especially in this age of giving our children everything just to keep up with our neighbors or relieve our guilt for not spending enough time with them.
My daughter’s favorite term from this unit is opportunity cost. She uses this as frequently as possible to point on the many ways I could have made better choices, which by the way I truly appreciate. It started out cute; at the grocery store she would point at the Chips Ahoy and tells me if she chooses those then she will be giving up the “opportunity” to get the Oreos. I agree and tell her I am glad that she sees what she is learning can be applied outside of the classroom. She then goes on a dissertation about how difficult it is to make the choice and it would be easier if she could get both because then the people making them would stay employed. A noble response and I commend the manipulation that goes along with her statement. I tell her to pick one and when I turn around to yell at her sister she puts both packages in the cart anyway. Later she defends this action with some more economic BS.
She has also chosen to analyze my life and the choices I have made. On our way to some activity that is clearly not for me (because what is these days?), she will ask why I chose not to work and make money so we can do more things. WOW…there are so many ways to answer this question, but not many that will make sense to an eight year old. “Well, mommy works part-time so that I can be home for you and be able to take care of you and your sister. This is also a job, so it is like I work full-time.” I know it fell on deaf ears like most things I say, but like most things I say, it is for myself more than the kids.
I have decided to come up with some of my own examples of opportunity cost that I may use in our point-counterpoint discussions, because it is healthy to argue and keep score with a child. So here we go:
The cost of my comfort is allowing you to come to my bed after you wake up with a nightmare
The cost of my ability to do anything for myself is being available 24/7 for you and your sister
The cost of my privacy is your ability to interrupt my 45 second trip to pee
The cost of my enjoying a meal while it is warm, is ensuring you kids are eating
The cost of my relaxing is being a maid for everyone
You get the picture, as a parent anything you want or desire is always trumped by our children’s wants and needs. I have decided to re-define the economic terms she has been using so that they more accurately reflect the way kids understand them:
Opportunity Cost – Getting what I want instead of what mom wants
Want – Something that I ‘Need’, but mom calls a ‘Want’
Need – You know; DSI, ice cream, TV in my room – things I need to survive
Scarcity – My mom’s sanity
Income – Something mom doesn’t make enough of
Limited Resources – ??? Does not compute….
Spending – I could do more if mom would work more
Specialization – My special ability to have mom get done what I need (also known as manipulation)
It is important that you become familiar with these terms, as you will be tested on them regularly, as will your patience. Since the kids are in school today, I am going to give up the opportunity to clean their bathroom and take a trip to Macy’s to acquire a want, which after looking at my sorely outdated wardrobe is more of a Need.