Fair Economics

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Fair money
Fair money

The glass jar has been sitting on our mantle for months now; an index card taped to the outside of it has the words “OC Fair” written in orange marker. Periodically, the lid is unscrewed and into the jar dollars are dropped.

With just a week until the Orange County Fair opens, my kids are in for a huge lesson in the relationship between work and compensation, the correlation between incentive and reward. Or, in this case, a lack thereof.

I explained to everyone that the jar was to be filled with money earned from recycling glass, aluminum and plastic throughout the year. Whatever money was in the jar would be the amount we would spend this year at the fair.

You would think the kids would have been racing to get their hands on every plastic water bottle, soda can, or glass container they could these past months. Wyatt, our youngest, was the only one who displayed some motivation. His siblings will reap the benefits of his diligence, yet the benefits are small.

Not one time did the other kids come to me and ask to go to the recycling center. Not one time were we at a party or gathering where they made the connection that a guest upon finishing a can of diet coke, was essentially tossing their ticket to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl in the trash.

Just this weekend, Payton walked right over close to a dollar’s worth of water and Gatorade bottles strewn across the sidelines of a lacrosse game.

Up until this point, my kids have had a free ride – figuratively and literally at the fair.

My fair warning about the money this year coming from recycling just didn’t stick like the ten dollar cotton candy does.  The idea of the money in the jar being the only I will shell out this year hasn’t sunk in as quickly as their teeth into a six dollar corn dog.

Unless something changes dramatically in the next week, when we dump out the jar and distribute the money on opening day, each kid in our family will have about $12.

They can go to the fair on one of the We Care Wednesdays, where depending on the day, a donation of something such as three gently used books gets you free admission.

But once in, they are not even halfway to an unlimited ride wristband for $30. They’ll have to drool over their friend’s fried Oreo or wait out a few of their favorite rides and instead hang out with me ogling over the newborn piglets or blue ribbon zucchini.

Necessity is the Motherhood of many things. Lucky for our kids, the fair goes on for a month which gives them just enough time to get serious and scramble for scrap. My guess is they will be collecting cans faster than the Zipper.

I think after this year, The Fales four will understand what it takes to have their funnel cake and eat it too.

Jill Fales is the mother of four and author of “My Laundry Museum & Other Messy Gifts of Motherhood.” Visit her at JillFales.com

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