Most mornings our kids’ playroom looks like an ancient Roman bank excavated from the ruins of Pompeii. It’s littered with brittle pieces of clay money; some in stacks, others lying broken on the floor. Considering how decrepit they appear, it’s odd that they once had such immense value.
If there’s one consistent and predictable element in our lives, it’s the existence of a specific activity that magically snaps Arlo out of a tantrum. That magical thing changes often, but thankfully, always exists. Months ago the antidote to a freak-out was Bob The Builder. That slowly morphed into Yo Gabba Gabba, then “eye-pop-pops”(lollipops) and now, somehow, it isn’t a TV show, jingle, or candy. It’s making Play-Doh coins.
Arlo can be belly-flopped on the floor totally flippin’ because one of us put his special sunflower seed on the mantle instead of the storage cube, but if I say, “Who wants to make some coins?” his mood immediately shifts from “This is some serious bullshit” to “Oh, h-to-the-hell yes.” He hops to his feet, wipes the tears from his cheeks and stomps into the New Jersey Mint, chanting, “Coing, coing, coing.”
The routine is always the same. He picks a color, I roll out the Doh, and using Lego pieces, small fake ice cream cones, and empty Play-Doh cans, I press coins of varying shapes and sizes. Arlo peels off the excess, collects his money and places it on the windowsill to dry. “More coing, more coing, more coing,” he says. I roll out another sheet, then hear Silas from the other room, “Make some coins for me too!” Now there’s competition and the floppy fake cash suddenly has incredible value.
They’re both obsessed with who owns each coin. I try to tell them, “Let’s just share the coins,” which is ridiculous since they can’t both hold the same coin. I try to give them an equal number, but they both want more. Which of them receives the first coin from a new press is a privilege that’s argued with little skill, but great passion. Eventually, Arlo takes a coin that Silas believed deeply to be his, then, while looking blankly into my eyes, Silas snatches the coin back from his brother, resulting in a small meltdown. Meanwhile, the coin has been destroyed, and now neither of them can afford to buy that fine summer goose, or pay the blacksmith for the silver-bladed smiting swords they ordered during the last snowfall. Sorry, I think Game of Thrones starts again soon.
The only solution is to make more coins until they’re both happy, or lose interest. Welcome to my entirely unintentional experiment in toddler capitalism. I just keep printing money until everyone has everything they could possibly want, because if I don’t bailout A.I.G., my two little investment bankers will go crying to their Mom (the President) to give them more coins. The prez will walk in casually and say, “Why can’t you just make more coins?” and I’ll try to explain, but eventually realize no one cares, and quietly make more coins until none of them have any value. Now a simple leg of mutton costs 7 blue squares, 3 giant red circles, and 4 small tan circles. It’s no wonder people are starving. I need to keep an eye on inflation.
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