Out of the mouths of babes… (Bring your Crayons)

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By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST

There’s lots of ways to say this, but kids do say the darnd’est things. Some of the truest statements on earth are muttered out of the mouths of babes. To that end, I must share a story for me that happened almost 30 years ago.

As children are learning about life, parents do whatever they can to develop their curiosity, learning and life experiences so that they may miss some of the pitfalls that we all stepped into. Of course, that process also comes with its own road blocks. Just look at the start of daylight savings time, and you’ll see where I’m going. If you try to establish a bed time routine, say 7 or 8 o’clock…how do you answer a two year old about bed time when they quizzically look at you about bed time and say… “it isn’t bed time silly daddy, it isn’t even dark yet”. The whole clock thing is tough enough, let alone grasping the concept that you can indeed change the clock… but only twice a year.

I had an even more comical time when trying to explain the concept of work. What do you say to a three year old who asks why you disappear all day only to reappear again later that night or for breakfast the next day? Remember, I am a recovering CPA who frequently worked very late on many days throughout the year causing me to miss dinner at least half the time in tax season and at least one night a week for much of the year.

Children understand the concept of work when they see a policeman, firefighter, letter carrier or construction worker. But me, I must have been a total loser because I went to work wearing these funny jackets with a piece of silk tied around my neck. The children just couldn’t figure out how I worked in that outfit and came home looking almost the same as I did when I left that morning. Especially because they got to witness my weekend warrior style of landscaping and tree work. I towed my kids around the yard from sun up to sun down every weekend either mowing, edging, planting flowers or trimming trees. To them, that was work.

Feeling like a total loser, I tried to explain what I did by going down the path of making money. By three… at least thirty years ago, they have some concept of money. The Good Humor truck would roll down the street, dad would pull this fancy paper out of his pocket and give it to the Good Humor man, and they got ice cream. What a concept. They began to understand what it meant to have money, and then got pretty excited to know that I was leaving every day to make money so that they can have more ice cream tomorrow.

But then one day, as I was leaving, the now 32 year old Rob looked at me with a distressed look on his face. He asked, “Are you going to work”. I said yes. He got even more confused so he asked another question. “Where are your Crayons” he said.  Now it was my time to look at him quizzically and ask why I would need to bring crayons to work. Rob then said, “How are you going to make money if you don’t have any crayons”?