Ugh. My son wants to play Magic: The Gathering

Burning MoneyOut of the blue Owen, our 9 year old in 4th grade, mentions to me today, ‘My friend J**** plays Magic: The Gathering and I want to spend all my back-due allowance and savings on this box of assorted cards I found on ebay’.

Sigh. <shakes fist and curses the fates> Seriously? I’ve never even mentioned this game to him. He’s bought some Pokemon cards over the years but never showed interest in actually playing the game (possibly cause I never showed interest either). But now thanks to school and friends, my apathy and dislike of this type of game can no longer protect him.

(I also had no idea he knew how to find stuff on ebay, but that’s is a whole other issue)

To put this into context for those of you who don’t know this, this is a game I played, and frankly spent way too much money on, in the early 90’s while I was working at Antioch College and hanging out with those pesky students that played cool games. This was pretty much the primary game many of us played for a few years there. After my friends all graduated and left town it was a sad realization that I had all these cards, that I had spent more than I care to admit on, and no one to play games with. So shortly before we moved to Maine I sold all the cards that had any value and threw the rest in boxes.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great game that involves strategy and creativity. With Owen’s interest in math and fantasy worlds it’s probably a good match on some levels, but it also requires a bunch of expensive cards or at least there’s built in ‘Oh if I just spent a little more I’ll get some better cards and I’ll have more fun’ pressures inherent in the game.

Oh and it never ends, you can’t just ‘buy them all’ and be done, they keep releasing new sets of cards every few months and thus you need to keep spending more more more to stay current. Oh and there’s an extensive set of rules you need to know to play the game, so you cant just casually play it a little, you need burn lots of time on learning it all to really be good at it.

This is why I haven’t ever played this game with him and why I’m groaning to see him not only getting interested but, worst of all, seeing him starting to burn what little money he has on it.

So when I get home from work he tells me he wants these cards and even goes so far to hand me a wad of cash and says ‘This plus the back allowance you owe me covers the cost of what I want to get’

No amount of explaining that A) These are probably from older sets thus harder to use now, B) This is a waste of money IMHO and C) You don’t even know how to play the game! D) These are just lame common & uncommon cards .. and any other arguments I could think of… could sway his ‘But you said I can spend my money on what I want!’ arguments. It’s true, we said that. Sigh.

The chorus from an old Kenny Rogers song echoes in my head now as I enter my paypal password to buy this box of cards;

Promise me son not to do the things I’ve done, walk away from trouble if you can

Though, to be fair, I guess old habits die hard, I have to admit I haven’t volunteered to give my remaining old cards I haven’t touched in 15 years to him yet.

Maybe I can sell them on ebay? 🙂

OR .. it might be kind of fun to play again.

Oh. No. Help! I think I need an intervention!

Capacity to give

EmptyPocketsI’m out here in Southwest Ohio right at the Alumni Board meeting for the college I graduated from over 21 years ago (yikes)… well kind of. The college I attended officially closed in 2008, then through a series of efforts by a large number of folks, it reopened but with many casaulties (including all the former tenured faculty and all current students at the time).

So it’s a officially a new ‘non-successor’ instituion, while at the same time using the same name and geographic location as the former college. The current president takes pride in referring to the new college as a ‘160 year old startup’. They refer to alumni and our ‘rich history’ on one hand, and then on the other they state they are a new college and aren’t bound by any assumptions or associations with the ‘old college’. Basically it seems like if an association is an asset, they claim it, and if not, they don’t. Confused yet? I am and I’ve been following this for years.

So I just spent a weekend not only getting told whats happening on campus, but why we and everyone we know needs to give ‘personally significant’ gifts in order to help them succeed. More than once the term ‘capacity to give’ has been referred to, which basically means ‘How rich you are’. Like much in life, it’s frustrating to think that ones ‘capacity’ equates to how much influence and access one has to the decision makers. ‘But ain’t that America?’

If you had asked me when I was 22 and graduating how ‘well off’ I’d be when I was 44, I would have guessed much higher, surely I’d be able to give ‘personally significant gifts’ of large amounts and I would be debt free and be saving and investing money etc. Well.. sadly.. not so much. Mind you, this is all a matter of perspective and it’s certainly a ‘first world problem’ to bitch and moan that I don’t have extra money to give away, but after being told what at least one organization needs, it’s frustrating that I am not able to help them in any manner that they, or anyone else, would believe is ‘personally significant’.

Here’s hoping when I’m 66 I’ll be at that point, though sadly I suspect.. not so much. Sorry all worthy non-profits, I’m not a good prospect. I’ll sign your petitions and cheer your victories but when it comes to the almighty dollar, ‘it ain’t me babe’