Sadly, trips to the toy store with Ittybit rarely end in purchases these days. There's no begging, no bartering, no badgering for inventory. Playthings have become passe.
Barbies are bundled (all of them naked with horror-show hair) under her bed. Littlest Pet Shops are neatly crated in her closet, categorized by creature. Calico Critters have been left to forage for themselves in the old abandoned doll house.
Over the summer (and practically overnight) Ittybit has moved from the dark ages of intrinsically childish things into the mezmerizing bluish-white light of their technological replacement.
Yes, yes. She wants an iPad.
And she's discovered (through the experience of a more tech-savvy friend) a way to get one: If she earns the money for half of the cost, her parents will most likely see the vast benefits of paying for the other half.
She gets her iPad and we get a kid who takes initiative and follows through.
Not a bad deal, right?
Certainly not considering Ittybit already has $160 in savings from birthday presents, Tooth Fairy visits and two summers' worth of lemonade stand sales.
Of course her next birthday is still months away, and with precious few wiggly teeth left, she sees the conundrum: What's a girl of eight to do to earn money?
"Laundry," I suggested.
Her eyes lit up.
"Really? For money?"
"Sure, if you do our laundry, too."
"How much will you pay me?"
"Twenty-five cents to wash and dry and fifty cents to fold and put away each load."
"That's seventy-five cents a load."
It seemed the perfect amount: large enough to attract her as an employee; small enough to keep the actual iPad purchase from happening before Christmas; and odd enough that she will have to brush up on her math skills keeping track. ... Which will be my bonus as I entrust the delicates and shrinkables to the novice, who will, no doubt, need hours of in-house training services to ensure our whites aren't tinted with pink and our floors aren't flooded with soap suds.
Surprisingly, the experiment has gone well.
Not only has she proven a competent and enthusiastic laundress, but she's also been quite meticulous in her accounting.
"I did three loads of laundry ... That's $2.25 ... plus another $.50 for the laundry YOU left in the dryer that I folded and put away ... so that's $2.75."
Perhaps a little too meticulous.
"Two-dollars and seventy-five cents ...hmmm ... at this rate it will take me 20 weeks to earn enough money for the iPad."
I see her mind churning.
"I can clean my room. ...
"I can clean YOUR room ...
"I can do dishes ...
"I will clean all the bathrooms ...
I have a better idea. ... "Just clean YOUR room and put all the toys you no longer play with in a box for the town-wide yard sale. The money you make selling things you don't want can pay for things you do want."
The look on her face told me her entrepreneurial skills may not be quite up to that task just yet. But of course, what she says shows her entrepreneurial skills have already surpassed mine:
"I have a better idea. You sell your old stuff and I'll sell lemonade. The profit margin is better."