Happy 119 Months, my love! This post, as a reflection of our days now, is full of “lasts.” This is the last time I’ll write to you in Costa Rica, as we’ll be back in Savannah next month. This is the last time I’ll write to you as a single-digit girl, since next month you’ll be 10 years old. The last time I write to you as a 4th grader.
Friends from Savannah were visiting last month, and Beth asked what you would miss most about Costa Rica. You replied,
- The people,
- The animals,
- The plants and nature.
I thought that was lovely. Then she asked what you were most excited about having in Savannah. To which you replied,
- Air conditioning,
- Big grocery stores with air conditioning,
- Reliable internet.
Ah. And thus we prepare to leave the third world for the first world. It is my sincere hope that we can return to enjoy the amenities of living in the US, while still finding ways to embrace the people, the animals and the nature there too. I don’t want those purer passions to fade with the return to comfy couches in cool homes with fruit roll-ups and Netflix on demand.
Meanwhile in the absence of fast internet here in Costa Rica, you have become addicted to the game M.A.S.H. I think most females of my generation will remember this fortune-telling game, and I was secretly pleased to know it has withstood the test of time.
You and your friends love to play M.A.S.H., using the game to predict who you’ll marry, where you’ll live, what job you’ll have and what pet. You and your cohort of gal pals have become quite the giggly bunch lately, talking of boys and crushes and everything of interest to a pre-teen. There’s a boy at school you like – I won’t dare betray your confidence and say his name – and most days when I pick you up from school I get a play-by-play of when you saw him, what he was doing, and whether or not you two made eye contact. If he talks to you, you’ll breathlessly recount the conversation, followed by the observation that “IT WAS TERRIFYING!” And then you’ll fall over sideways in the backseat and giggle for 5 solid minutes. You have already decided that you will cry on the last day of school because you’ll never see him again, this beloved who doesn’t even know he’s beloved.
And so it all begins. All of it. The last few weeks have borne witness to mounting girl drama – the kind that every girl must face as she grows up. I’m not ready for it, but then again, whenever would I be ready for it? One of your classmates announced your crush to the class, and you were devastated. Not only was your secret out, but you’d been betrayed by a friend. It will be the first of many times unfortunately, and learning to cope is essential but not fun.
We’ve begun teaching another necessary skill in these last weeks – money management. There are as many different opinions as there are parents when it comes to allowances, chores, how much to pay for what, or if we should pay at all. And I haven’t a clue if we’re doing things right – it’ll be interesting for you to read this many years from now, maybe wrestling with these questions with your own child, and then judging whether or not we did well or how you’d improve.
What we have currently settled on is a points system for chores, managed through an app called ChoreMonster. There are certain chores that are non-negotiable – they’re just part of your duties as a member of the household, but we still give you points for doing them. Then if you want extra points, you can tackle extra tasks like cooking dinner or washing the car.
The points translate to money, and you can “redeem” them when there is something you want to buy. One fantastic benefit of this, is that I don’t seem like a jerk when I don’t want to buy you something frivolous. You have the option to buy it, you just have to use YOUR money.
We even use this tactic in restaurants. You LOVE to order whole fish. I think you enjoy the fact that it FREAKS ME OUT to have that roasted eyeball staring at me. You like the attention. So when you see pescado entero on the menu, you always want to order it. Unfortunately, it’s usually about twice as expensive as the regular fish filet.
“Sure,” we say, “you can order the whole fish. The filet is $10 and the whole fish is $20, so if you want the whole fish you’ll need to pitch in ten bucks.”
And so you order the filet. When you have to really consider how much more money you spend for the novelty of whole fish, you learn the lesson of prioritization.
We ran into a tough one a couple of weeks ago when we were vacationing at the Rio Perdido resort. You wandered into the gift shop and fell madly in love with the most unusual stuffed animal. It looks mostly like a black dog, but with large teeth and a gold chain around its neck – and a spooky legend. The dog is named “Cadejos,” and according to legend he can be found roaming the woods at night, rattling his gold chain and snarling, with the goal of scaring drunk men. I’m not making this up.
You badly wanted to buy him, but didn’t have enough ChoreMonster points. So we said sorry, you had to earn the points first (jerk move). This seemed unfair to you because we’d never seen this creature anywhere else, so when would you have another opportunity to buy him? Even after you’d earned the points?
In all honesty, I kind of wanted to buy him for you because he was hilarious. But we felt it was important for you to learn the lesson that if you don’t save your money, sometimes you can’t have things.
But your Daddy and I found a compromise. We went ahead and bought Cadejos, but wouldn’t let you have him until you’d earned the money. This was torture to you, having the toy in the room, staring at you, but you were forbidden to touch him.
The day we came home from the resort, you cooked dinner, washed all the dishes and washed the car. You earned your reward – and I think you love him even better for having had to work for him.
I admit that I was a little wary when we decided to let you wash the dishes, because my OCD wants to make sure they’re really really clean. But I needn’t have worried – you may be more OCD than your mother. I wash dishes well, but then I pile them up willy nilly on the towel to dry. You, on the other hand, lay out the clean dishes with the precision of an engineer.
Now that you have your precious Cadejos, you have a new goal in mind. You’re currently trying to save up a very large number of points to get a bearded dragon. We’re not 100% sure we want to have another pet in the house, but then again, if you’re dedicated enough to save up that many points (it may take you a year) and not spend them on every stuffed animal you see in a store, then you deserve that new pet.
You even went to work making new necklaces and earrings last week for your Camscraft store, looking for additional ways to earn money.
This parenting business is full of uncertainties for we the parents. From allowance rules, to email etiquette, to boy crushes and girl drama, to bearded dragons – there is a lot to navigate. But being your mother is still one of the greatest joys of my life. I love you sweet bear. My sweet 4th grader, 9 year old, temporary tica. I love you always.