Friday, December 12, 2008

My Niece and Nephew's Yard Sale

My visits home to family are not always particularly cheerful, especially lately, but the silver lining in that cloud is always that I get to play with my niece and nephew. They are incredibly cute, and as they get older (they're approximately 5 and 3 now) it's more and more fascinating to listen to them talk and see how their minds work.

On my last visit to my sister's house, the kids decided to drag me into Nephew's room and imprison me. They pointed their little fingers at me and ordered me to stay put. Then they started grabbing toys and saying "You might need this!" And then of course they took them away. So I had to play all sad and say "Oh no! I might need that! But you're taking it away! What am I going to do without it?"
After they'd removed quite a few toys, I asked why they were taking them away and what they were going to do with them. My niece declared that they were going to sell them at a yard sale, and elaborated as follows:

Niece (age 5): We are taking all your toys and tomorrow we're having a yard sale.
Nephew (age 3): A yard sale!
Niece: We're going to sell your toys and Santa isn't going to bring you any new ones. Santa is going to bring me [counting on fingers then giving up] 21 toys, and he's going to bring Nephew 20 toys--
Nephew: He's bringing me 21 toys too!
Niece: -- and he's bringing you [holds up fist with no fingers out] NO toys! And we're selling all your toys at the yard sale!
Madame X: Oh no! Why am I not getting any toys? I was good this year!
Niece: No, he's not bringing you any new toys and you can't have any old toys because we're selling them at the yard sale.
Madame X: What are you going to do with all the money you make from the yard sale?
Niece: We are going to the original dog park. It takes money and money and money to go there. They only let in one girl and one boy and you can't go! Only one girl and one boy and not even Mummy and Daddy can go and... and... no, they let in two boys and two girls and I'm going and Nephew's going and Mummy's going and Daddy's going and you can't go!
Nephew: You can't go!


I asked my sister later where all that had come from. She was kind of at a loss about the very expensive "original dog park," but the yard sale concept turned out to have originated from a conversation she had with the kids while trying to clean up the house. She pointed out that they had lots and lots of toys and didn't even have time to play with them all, and did they know that there were poor children who didn't have any toys at all, and didn't they think that was very sad? Didn't they want to have a yard sale or give away some of their old toys so poor children could have them, since Santa was going to bring Niece and Nephew nice new toys very soon? Wouldn't it be nice for the poor children to get some toys to play with too?
My sister was then rather disturbed that my niece just tossed her head in a huff and said "No! I want to keep ALL my toys!"
Yikes! Hopefully she grows out of it!

13 comments:

Miss M said...

I think your niece's reaction is perfectly natural, kids tend to be self centered at that age. She should grow out of it, I think it's a cute story.

Fabulously Broke said...

I wouldn't be too concerned either :)

AS long as it's nipped in the bud now.

Anonymous said...

You must not have children. They are 5 and 3. Therefore, they act like 5 and 3 year olds. It will take more than a 2 minute conversation with mommy to grasp some of the concpets you understand perfectly well.

Anonymous said...

Hope niece and nephew aren't reflecting mummy's and daddy's view of their aunt (who has been bad so Santa won't give any presents), which they could have overheard while mummy and daddy discuss Madame X's involvement with sick grandfather and grandmother and their money.

MtnMama said...

Well, I think they are reflecting their parents' attitude toward "things" - isn't sister the one with the TV "problem"?

I've done the One In / One Out thing with my daughter all along so that she develops a less rigid attachment with Stuff. We recently purged about 1/3 of her Bagillion stuffed animals, knowing that Santa was likely bringing more, so it was time to weed.

Kids tend to mirror what they see on a daily basis. Yes, they are little, but they aren't stupid.

Optioned Unarmed said...

I'm not a parent, so probably not all that qualified in this matter. But it seems to me that it may be wiser for parents to try to control how much stuff for the kids comes INTO the house, rather than try to persuade the kids to give things away once their house is overflowing with toys.

I like the "one in /one out" rule MtmMama refers to. It helps put the children in the position of making choices about what they value.

Madame X said...

Good points everyone. I'm not too worried yet about my niece being a little selfish, but I do worry that she may pick up some financial values from her mother and grandmother! When I play with the kids, I often find myself trying to counteract that, like suggesting we play "Bank" where we deposit and save money, vs. "Store" where we stuff the grocery cart as full as we can and buy everything!

Dawn's Fabulous Financial Evolution said...

cute story, don't you just love them at that age?
I hope your niece grows out of it because my sisters (16 and 12) are still as selfish as ever. I worry about those 2

Bill M said...

My 5 yr old is the same way towards her younger 2 yr old sister.

bugbear said...

The niece and nephew were frightened and traumatized by their parents' (the all powerful gods who control the kids' world) telling them that their stuff that they love and normally have control of would be taken out of their possession and sold in a yard sale, given to strangers, without the niece and nephew's approval and without benefitting them in any way they understood.

They were playing out their fears by playing the game with you, trying to come to grips with the reality of what they feared would happen to them. So when they were being "mean" to you, saying that there was a fun place to go to but that only they could go and you couldn't, they were projecting the situation they saw for themselves onto you, externalizing it and working out their fear. The same with the them telling you that all of your toys would be sold, but that they themselves would have toys.

Essentially, they know that other children have toys and feel that they are being punished by having their toys taken away. It is not really related to a personal finance topic at all, it is related to the insensitivity of their parents in subjecting them to the yard sale decision at an age where they are developmentally unequipped to process it. Your niece and nephew where essentially playacting the role that their parents played to them, and projecting you into their own role as victims of the "yard sale". This is a normal kind of thing that will come out in children's play and as a matter of fact sounds like a textbook example of what a therapist would witness in a play therapy session with a young child. A 3 and a 5 year old are not capable of even sharing toys in the way that an adult would think of sharing, and to tell them that "we are having a yard sale and selling all (or half, or ANY) of your toys" is going to be traumatic for them.

bugbear said...

@"She pointed out that they had lots and lots of toys and didn't even have time to play with them all, and did they know that there were poor children who didn't have any toys at all, and didn't they think that was very sad? Didn't they want to have a yard sale or give away some of their old toys so poor children could have them, since Santa was going to bring Niece and Nephew nice new toys very soon? Wouldn't it be nice for the poor children to get some toys to play with too?
My sister was then rather disturbed that my niece just tossed her head in a huff and said "No! I want to keep ALL my toys!"

To reiterate, kids that age are not capable of understanding issues like injustice, and other children being poor, and certainly have, and should have, not interest in giving away their stuff, especially because they don't even have the say in deciding what to do. Rather it is the parent placing his/her values and interests at the forefront and pushing the kids' interests back. So yes, the proper response for the niece is the honest one; "NO! Those toys are mine and you can't give them away!!"

It is worth noting that I don't know of any adults who would consider giving away half of their stuff or half of their money so that poor or otherwise disadvantaged *relatives*, never mind strangers, can benefit, so expecting a 3 and a 5 year old to want to do so is highly asymmetric.

MtnMama said...

Hmmm... maybe it is the "all at once" part that sounds so traumatizing. (I agree that is not the way to go.)

Just to clarify - I suggest keeping a rein on mass accumulation by purging the stuff that is outgrown, not their favorite, or wearing out & missing pieces. We have also always talked about the clothes that she outgrows and give away by saying we are "giving them to the babies". My daughter then feels like a "big girl" and we are of course replacing the little outgrown things with new - or new to her - stuff that fits. And she gets to choose what goes. I don't always agree with her choices, only offer suggestions, but I do enforce (AND MODEL) keeping a limited amount of "things". No kid needs fifty stuffed animals. That's just obscene.

mapgirl said...

Maybe its because we watched 'Mommy Dearest' a thousand times on cable and laughed when Faye Dunaway screamed 'NO... WIRE... HANGERS...EVEEERRRRR!!!!!!' that I think giving away excess toys is some what normal. (It's a scene in the film when her fans inundate the house with toys for her kids at Xmas.) But usually I think the trick is to take toys they have outgrown and then let the kids give them away. (It's particularly cruel they were only allowed to keep one each, creating a false sense of privation, instead of say 5 each.)

For instance, I was at a baby shower for Friend A. Friend B was the hostess and her two elementary school age daughters were there. Because the party was for Friend A, the youngest, about 6 at the time, came over with some of her old toys and said they were for the baby because they were baby toys she didn't use anymore. It was very sweet and came out of nowhere. Friend B does a great job of raising her kids to be thoughtful and her child recognized that she had many toys that might be good for babies.

Developmentally, 3 isn't a good age to really grasp sharing with strangers, but the notion of sharing with her older brother is probably there.