Parenthood has a way of bringing back the awkwardness and painful memories of childhood in new and surprising ways. This week it came in the form of the World Market, a third grade social science unit where the kids study five cultures, then create crafts to sell to their classmates in order to earn “Market Dollars,” which they can use to buy their classmates’ crafts.
I found the idea charming, and my son immediately latched on the idea of creating bookmarks with each country’s flag. He likes flags, and I liked the idea that bookmarks were within my limited crafty range. After some negotiating and a trip to Staples for fun paper and sparkly stickers, we were set.
On Market Day, the kids are paired up, so one can sell the goods while the other shops. My son and his best friend had a cozy booth in a corner of the classroom, and they were set up for business.
Except he didn’t sell many bookmarks. His good friends bought some, but most of the other kids passed them over for the more elaborate crafts.
My son is an eternal optimist. He is, and always has been, a “glass half full” kind of kid. (No, I’m not sure exactly where he gets it. Yes, he looks like me, so he wasn’t switched at birth.)
So I realized how upset he was when he started crying. He said he felt like the kids didn’t like his bookmarks, and that made him sad.
I admit, I started to cry at this point too. Nothing like third grade drama to bring out the feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in a 41-year-old woman.
After we found some Kleenex, I asked him a few questions. Like why he thought the kids didn’t buy his bookmarks. It turns out they may not have been easy to see in their little corner of the classroom, overshadowed by some bigger items for sale. (Merchandising!) And maybe pricing was an issue. (Sale! He did better when he offered a two for $1 deal).
I managed to turn it into a conversation about retail business practices and tactics. We talked about why we buy things and the decisions we make with our money.
In short, the World Market gave us both a lesson that neither of us quite expected.
He learned a little bit about sales and marketing techniques.
I learned that 3rd grade is even harder the second time around.