Friday, October 8, 2010

Carte Blanche

Our school system has a new program in place, where parents can load money into their kids' lunch accounts, and then the kids merely need to plug in their PIN at the cafeteria cash register, and they can buy lunch, milk, a snack, whatever. Fab! I thought. No more sending in nickels, dimes and quarters for lunches! No more worrying about exact change! I set the boys up with $15 each and gave them their PINs with instructions. This would be good for six school lunches each. So at one lunch every two weeks or so, we were set for the first three months of school.

Ben is excellent at math, but apparently this was not how *he* approached the money in his lunch account. No, Ben--the kid who is always saying he wants to be a millionaire when he grows up; the kid who won't spend a dime of his tooth fairy, birthday or found money; the kid who checks every vending machine, pay phone and train seat for loose change--clearly didn't understand what this account was all about.

At least, that's what I tell myself.

Because in a matter of two weeks, despite the fact that he was bringing lunch every day, as well as milk money, Ben burned through that lunch account like a Wall Street hedge fund manager.

My husband and I talked about it. Maybe someone got a hold of his code when he wasn't looking. Maybe he is using it to buy his way into the hearts of other kids with cookies and chips. Maybe he's just really, really hungry and is embarrassed to tell us that he's actually using the money, which is why he keeps denying it.

Finally, after talking about it with Ben, and after the account continued to decline into the negative balance and I got an email from the cafeteria manager, I did something. I told Ben I was closing the account, and that if he wanted to buy lunch, we would talk about it and I would give him cash. I told the cafeteria manager that Ben has insisted he is not using the account, yet it has gone down by at least .50 every day for a week. An investigation is underway.

What I learned was, just becuase one kid has his own money burning a hole in his pocket, it doesn't mean he won't follow directions when it comes to someone else's money (Jacob's account is still full). And just because another kid hoards money like oxygen, it doesn't mean he values all forms of money and will treat them equally carefully.

I also learned Ben likes the Harvest Pizza on Fridays at school. So I guess I'm back to nickels, dimes and quarters again. But at least I know they will last until the end of the year.