We went to the museum yesterday. It was wet and snowy and awful out and the kids were getting a little cagey at home. So, we went and saw the I-Max movie about bears, which the kids loved. I liked it too but I'm still a little haunted by Grizzly Man.
Then we did some crafts and looked at case after case of taxidermied animals--because this is what the Hastings Museum consists mostly of -- taxidermied animals and not just mounted deer. Oh, no. We're talking stuffed polar bears posed to be ripping open stuffed seals. This was all put together long before there was any taboo about clubbing baby seals. There's a stuffed mama seal and stuffed baby nursing seal--actually in the act of nursing. Phoebe a year or so ago put together that someone had to have killed that baby. Yup. It's fascinating and awfully creepy.
But this is not the point of my story.
The point of my story is that we were in the children's activity area which has a groundwater exhibit (where water runs through a chute that looks like a river surrounded by farmland and you can set up houses and crops and then put in dams and flood it out, filling up irrigation resevoirs or just knock down the houses and race little boats), a frontier cabin (an actual cabin that someone donated. It's the size of my bathroom and a family of eight actually lived in it), a teepee and an archeological dig. The dig is dionsaur bones burried in this rubber fake sand. You put on a big hat and use brushes to push aside the sand and find the bones. It's pretty cool.
After we'd been in that room a while and the kids had already exhausted each exhibits intended purpose, Moses started filling up one of the archeologists hats with the fake sand. Another boy saw what Mo was doing and decided to do it as well. This boy had already taken off his shoes and dipped his feet in the groundwater exhibit, not to mention climbing on top of it and generally running amok. So he sits down and starts filling up another hat.
The mom says, "Just don't put it on your head."
"Hmmm..." the kid thinks, "that's sounds like a good idea." And, of course, starts to raise the hat up, but so far has not started tipping it. From now on I'll call him Billy.
"Billy," she says in a louder but not threatening voice, "I'll give you a dollar not to pour that on your head."
Billy's eyebrows go up--interested--but keeps raising the hat.
"I'll give you two dollars to not do it!" She says more excitedly, getting out of her chair. "Come on, Billy, please....two dollars!"
As he very slowly starts to tip it he says, "Make it five and you've got a deal."
Now, to her credit, she took the hat out of his hands and dumped the fake sand back atop the fake dinosaur bones. But I am 100% convinced that if he had stopped, she would have opened her purse and given him $2.
You should have seen the look on Mo's face. It was part wonder that this was even a possibility in the world. She was going to give him money?! And part wariness--like he knew there was something strange and not quite right about that. I thought about asking them what they thought about that later, but since Phoebe's going to sit with this kid in class on Monday, I thought I'd just let it go and talk about it if they brought it up. They didn't.
I just keep projecting the outcome of that strategy into the future. How much can you pay a kid not to drink and drive? Not to get his girlfriend pregnant? Not to drop out of college?
Phoebe is taking piano lessons and she is supposed to practice five times a week. Her teacher said if she gets all her practice in, "Maybe your parents can give you a reward." Of course I said, "Phoebe, you know what the reward is for practicing the piano? Knowing how to play the piano!" Maybe I'm stingy. I don't know. But I hate the idea of teaching kids to what they should not because it's their job or it's right or anything noble like that, but because they'll get a dollar or a candybar or something....ugh.
The otherside of the museum story is that I sat there and let Moses dump the hat full of fake sand on his head...because he's five and it's fake sand in the children's room at the museum and what do I care? But Billy's mom is probably writing on her blog on about those sloppy Dunbar kids and my parenting skills, or lack there of. Maybe I can give her a dollar not to say bad things about me.