Daddy, why can’t you just get money out of one of those machines?

When my first child, who’s now 22, was less than a year old, I took her to an FAO Schwartz store in New York, thinking that she’d have a ball with all the toys and stuffies. But no matter what I pulled off the shelf, she was always far more interested in playing with the price tags than with the toy itself. Ten or 12 years later, I found it endlessly entertaining that she still had her obsession with price tags, saving up her clothing allowance to buy herself jeans  at $150/pair (I get mine at Costco for $12/pair and have never seen the point of paying much more than that). And in all the years in between, I can’t even count the number of times when she, presented with a “No, bunny, I don’t want to buy that right now,” would come back with, “Daddy, can’t you just get money from one of those machines?”
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All of Life’s Riches

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I are relatively well off and can give our kids whatever they want. But how can we be generous without spoiling them rotten?

A: First of all, change your perspective: think in terms of giving them what they need instead of what they want. That said, if by “generous” you mean giving your time and love to your children, there’s no need to limit your generosity. The kids will benefit from spending time with you and your wife (and you will too), whether you’re just hanging out, taking walks, talking, or doing something more structured–none of which needs to cost anything at all.

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Pregnant Wife Worrying about Money

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is 11 weeks pregnant and driving me nuts. She’s worried constantly about our financial situation, her time off work, child care, you name it. She’s mad at me one minute, sad the next, and happy the one after that. Frankly, I’m not really buying the whole “emotional roller coaster” thing. Is she using her pregnancy as an excuse to act this way?

A: Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad is that the pregnancy roller coaster does exist and your wife’s hormones really are responsible for most of her erratic behavior. The good news is that the ride typically ends early in the second trimester, which you’re just about to start. Until then, try to be as understanding as can be—she’s probably not any happier with her behavior than you are and is finding the whole thing confusing and frightening.
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