Monday, November 14, 2011

My Kid the Salesman

My 8-year-old son is deep.

He said to his mother, who’s a middle school teacher, “Your students think eighth grade is next to ninth grade. I think third grade is next to college.”

He’s got something there. It’s quite profound. Or he just wants something from Mommy and knows his way to her teacherly heart.

Yup, our boy’s a salesman. Question is: Will he use his powers for good or evil?

My wife and I saw the full extent of the kid’s abilities when his teacher asked the class to sell magazine subscriptions to friends and family to raise funds for the school. My initial response: “I don’t want to ask anyone for money. No one we know has money right now, but they’ll feel guilty if we ask and they’ll fork over the cash, and I just don’t want that.”

Before I could finish saying my piece, my wife and son already had the address book out and phone in hand, eager to dial the family. I had to step up and lay down the law.

“Okay, who are we calling first?” I asked. Not much stepping up there. But I was able to at least lay down a few ground rules -- my wife and I came up with a list of family and friends our son could call. Everyone else in the address book was off limits.

The boy called my father-in-law first.

“Hello,” Grandpa said when he picked up.

“At my school,” the kid said without any greeting or introduction, “there’s this thing where you can buy subscriptions to magazines. Do you wanna buy one?”

One by one, family and friends came through. They were dropping their hard-earned cheese like it wasn’t all they had in their pockets to put food on the table. After a call to my brother, my son got back on the phone to other relatives, and my brother rang me up on my cell phone.

“I wish I could’ve done more,” he said, “but we just spent everything we have on the closing costs for this house.”

“You did plenty,” I said. “We appreciate it. And I know the school appreciates it, too.”

Boy, that school better appreciate it.

My wife got a similar call on her cell phone from a family friend. And so while she and I were thanking them graciously, our son was on our landline going through his list of contacts, selling subscriptions to each and every person he called.

My wife and I had only been away from our son for a minute -- two minutes tops. He had managed to go through the entire list of contacts, and then he dug into our address book and found other people he knew, people we told him were off limits, and he called them and made those sales as well.

“What are you doing?” I said when I caught him. “We told you to stick to the list.”

“But I just wanted to help the school more better,” he said.

“You should just wanna listen to Mommy and Daddy more better,” I told him. “Now you’re gonna have to call all those people who weren’t on the list and tell them the sale is canceled.”

My wife thought I was being a little harsh. But this time I actually got to lay down the law. The kid had gone too far.

So he called back those not on the list and canceled their orders.

Before going to school the next morning with his list of orders, our son told us, “If I made three more sales, I would’ve won a toy frog. But I don’t want you to think I’m addicted to prizes. I didn’t go into your address book so I could win the toy frog. I really just wanted the school to have more money.”

My wife and I weren’t buying. We sent the kid on his way.

When he returned home from school that afternoon, he told us how he handed over his orders and how the teacher congratulated him on a job well done.

“You did a great job,” I told him. “And I know you could’ve earned the toy frog if we kept your other sales, but more important is that rules are rules, and you have to obey the rules.”

“Oh, but I got the frog,” the kid said, pulling the toy frog out of his backpack.

“Did you steal that?” my wife and I asked when we saw the frog.

“No!” he said, hurt by the accusation. “I just asked for it nicely.”

The question, indeed: Will this kid use his powers for good or evil?

-September 2011

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