Humor by Mark Bazer

My 5-year-old son is developing an interest in money, and -- at the risk of being labeled a socialist by Glenn Beck -- I'm not finding it very enjoyable.

Right now, he has $1.18 in his possession, but at his wealthiest he was carrying around $2.42. An on-clearance toy car whose main feature, touted on the packaging, was that it "breaks upon sight!," wiped out more than half his savings.

My son earns his money by declaring that any coins on the floor in our home belong to him. In most homes, that probably wouldn't be a livable wage for a 5-year-old. But every night after work when I take off my pants in the living room, the three pounds of change I've somehow amassed during the day and forgotten about come pouring out. And I don't care for bending.

So, what's there to be upset about? A red-blooded American kid is supposed to have his own piggy bank and learn the importance of saving or, short of that, of borrowing from China.

But as the value of money becomes clearer to him, the nice illusion that everything he gets requires no exchange of something in return will disappear. And that'll be quite a leap into the real world.

It won't be my son's first lesson in the unfairness of things (that happened when I explained to him that he's genetically predisposed to having a hairy back by age 12), but it'll still be one of the biggest.

My wife and I aren't doing much to help the situation. This past weekend, the three of us were in a kids T-shirt store -- a store with a wide array of colorful, artistic and unique shirts. And then they had the ones on sale.

"You can get one of THOSE," I found, to my horror, my wife and I saying in something close to unison.

Hearing myself tell my son that $18 was too much for a kids T-shirt (which it is) sent me back to junior high. After 11 years of not knowing what a brand name was, my first real lesson at my new school was that it was "essential" for me to own as many Ralph Lauren Polo shirts as possible.

So, my mother, not as in tune with junior-high culture as I'd have preferred, took me to a place called Calvert's. Calvert's claim to fame was a giant bin of Polos for dirt-cheap prices, each of which had the little horse and Polo player sewn somewhere other than on the left side of the chest.

I'd kind of love to have one of those Polos today, actually.

Right now, everything about money for my son is the opposite of what it is for most people: fun. Half of that fun, at least, is just the pleasure of picking up and running all his coins around in his fingers, or showing them off to people who visit his room. In this way, I imagine, he's no different than Sam Zell.

"Look at all my moneys!" my son tells me.

"You mean, 'Look at all my money,'" I say.

"No, Daddy, I do mean, 'monies.' People who understand finance can employ the plural."

So, OK, he didn't say that last line. Heck, he doesn't even understand the difference between a dime and a penny yet.

If you're going to be into money, it's a nice stage, I suppose, to be at. But it won't be long before he learns money doesn't grow in rugs.

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