Meet Macrae Maximilian, or Max.
Max is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Sandwiched between a big brother with ego to spare and a little sister who is a card-carrying capital-D DIVA, he is not your typical middle child. He is enthusiastic and exuberant, affectionate and energetic. My mother sometimes calls him "Mercurial Max."
At age 6, he loves many things, especially meat, his Mama and money, probably in that order.
Max has been known to make off with the bacon plate many mornings and he has always told me, "I'm your little carnivore!"
Check out those sweet little fangs of his (right). Even as a baby, they were made for meat.
Whenever my Dad comes to dinner, Max checks to be sure that the brown cardboard Omaha Steak box has come with him.
While every night here is a musical beds routine with few people ever waking up where they started, Max is the last to leave the family bed. He still insists on starting out with me, preferably spooned, with a leg and arm draped over me. When he invites friends to sleep over, he inevitably leaves them in his bed to sneak into mine, and the poor guests wake up alone.
But this is how I know he loves money more than his mama: a few weeks ago, craving some alone time, J sent Max down to his own bed. He wept and wailed, insisted that he couldn't sleep without me. In a flash of brilliance, J flipped open his wallet and laid a crisp dollar bill over the top of Max's bedroom door. Before shutting it, J told him, "If this dollar is still here in the morning, it's yours." Winner winner, chicken dinner.
I wish I could spin it and say my little homeschooler loves math and numbers, but it's really cash. Last year, on a quiet morning by the fire, I told him he could have whatever pennies he found around the house if he could count them. He got out an egg carton and counted, very carefully, to 271. So we went on from there and he learned his five and ten times tables that morning on nickels and dimes, and fractions, how 25 goes into a dollar four times.
He squirrels his money away in a red metal locker and keeps a running tally of his savings account at the bank, lording the total over his big brother, who mentally spends his birthday money months before it even comes in. Most days Max greets J at the door with a fierce hug and a shrewd, "So Dad, how much money did you make today? In the hundreds?" It drives Max crazy that we won't tell him exactly how much "Chosen" sold for, or how much is in our bank accounts.
Which brings me to my dilemma: last night my Dad came over to watch the Super Bowl. He brought 5 ribeyes, and a filet for Max, and he brought a betting grid he had made, and ten $1 dollar bills. The idea was to teach the boys a bit about betting pools and make a game that none of us particularly cared about a little more fun and interesting. We all filled out squares, for a potential total of $10. (Just in case I haven't driven the point home about Max and money, before the kickoff, Max had a deck of cards out, and was trying to get my Dad to bet with him in blackjack.)
The first quarter, Max squirmed on the couch between us, constantly checking the chart, agonizing over the fact that he had taken all the outside squares, which meant someone's score had to end in a 9--not the most common football number.
Piper took the first quarter, for a dollar, and skipped off to put it in her Tinkerbell bank.
At halftime, as J was finishing up the steaks on the grill and I was serving up veggies, I was the big winner at $2. Tears shone in Max's eyes, mirroring the sequins on Fergie's outfit.
Sometime during the third period, his belly full of filet, Max broke down sobbing. "I'm never going to win!"
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," my Dad worried.
"It's fine. I'll count it towards a lesson in gambling, put it down for some homeschooling hours," I assured him.
Hayden, who played in several hard hockey games this weekend, was snoring away when my Dad tucked the third period's winning dollar into his hand.
By the 4th quarter, a despondent Max was fighting sleep, occasionally mumbling, "Any nines? What's the score?" When the Packers took the title and their coach had his Gatorade bath, Piper, the big $6 winner, was tucked in the crook of my arm, asleep, and Max was thankfully sacked out between his dad and grandpa.
J and I debated before going to sleep. Should we just divide the winnings? Or should we let it be a life lesson? Or maybe we should we even everyone's winnings from our own wallets? We could shred the grid, warn friends and family not to reveal the final score...
"Maybe he won't remember," I told J, "or he won't care." We both fell asleep laughing over that one.
At 4 am, when Max made his nightly trek to our bed and wriggled in between us, he asked sleepily, "What was the score? Who won the jackpot?"
It's almost sunrise Monday morning. The grid and remaining six singles sit on the kitchen island where my Dad left them. In an hour, they'll all be up. What would you do?