What warring first-graders taught me about perceived value

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Next time you think you’re smarter than a 6-year old, think again!

So, I’m driving my daughter and her pal around the other day and, over the sounds of Miley Cyrus singing Best Of Both Worlds, I hear a storm beginning to brew in the back seat.

Seems one of them is desperate to have the DVD player’s headphones on, while the other is even more desperate for sole possession of the Polly Pocket wrapper.

Now, this wouldn’t be news, but for the fact that…

We don’t have a DVD player in the car and the Polly Pocket dolls that formerly inhabited the plastic wrapper my daughter was clinging to had been lost months ago.

Are you getting this?

One girl sat defending her right to don useless headphones with her life, while the other scurried desperately to find some other worthless thing and endow it with breathless desire as a full-on defense to the former’s taunting.

Within seconds, both were screaming that the other wouldn’t let them play with the coveted toys.

So, we agreed on a negotiated-truce.

Headphone girl would sport her earwear for precisly 2-minutes, while garbage-wrapper girl fiddled with the plastic I never got around to throwing out for the same two minutes. Every 10-seconds, I was asked if it was time. And, every two minutes, on the button, for 20-minutes, a brokered-exchange took place.

Kind of funny, when you think how little kids can literally fabricate value at will. “Oh, they’re so silly,” we say. “So subject to their whims.” Of course, us grown-ups would never fall subject to such silliness…

But for the fact that it not about being kids, it’s about being human!

We’re all subject to the contrived perceived value bug. C’mon, what was the last designer thing you bought? How about your last gadget?

Any idea what the actual manufacturing cost of a pair of $800 Jimmy Choo’s, a $2,000 Gucci bag or $180 Nike kicks are? And, how much more functional are they than espadrils, a canvas tote and a pair of Cons?

We are all in the perceived value game together. The greater challenge is to see if, every once and a while, we can step back from what we consume and ask…

Is it really worth it, or I am just being Garbage-Wrapper Girl?

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10 responses

10 responses to “What warring first-graders taught me about perceived value”

  1. I have that stupid “See You Again” song in my head. And what’s worse is that I LIKE IT.


    Regarding perceived value, a lot of value has to do with shared aesthetics. So Jimmy Choo’s don’t seem any different to you than espadrilles, but have you SEEN espadrilles. Excuse me while I retch.

    I definitely take your point, though, perceived value to me is what the stock market is ALL ABOUT.

  2. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Hayden – I’ve recently been forced to discover Disney Radio’s playlist is about 4 songs long! And, hey, I’m not immune to sneaking into my wifes closet and throwing on her JCs for a quick dash to the store (don’t tell her, k, just between us)! 😉

    Point was really not that we should all just run around in burlap sacks, but more that it’s funny to see how certain patterns are established so early in life and, all too often, the patterns we see in kids and laugh about or decry are the very same patterns and values that govern our behavior as adults, we just don’t notice.

  3. Lynn says:

    It’s so true! We often look at kids’ behaviors and think they’re being silly or “kids” but really it’s just that adults are better able to hide their feelings or cover up the underlying desire in a cloak of “sophisticated” behavior. We vie for attention, get upset at “unfair” situations, and cry over spilled milk all the time. We just call it something else. That was a great solution you handed down!

  4. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Lynn – yeah, what’s funny, too, is that my first inclination was to say, “hey, don’t you realize the stuff you’re fighting over isn’t worth anything?”

    But, then I realized, even though the stuff had no “intrinsic” value, if they believed it was valuable, then, for those 20-minutes, it was! Because value is totally subjective. So, I just moved on to negotiating the truce. 🙂

  5. What about Starbucks? Who would have ever imagined that we would pay $3-$5 for a cup of coffee? I’m guilty of it. We all want to be associated with what is cool. I guess it is part of our basic make-up to try to fit in. All the advertisers know this and use it to their advantage. Sell the image!

    Great article. I gave it a Stumble.

  6. Keith says:

    Awesome article…there is a book I read once called “Everything I needed to learn, I learned in Kindergarden”. If we cannot evolve beyond this primary level of awareness and humanity, then man as a race is in for some unpleasant surprises. For me, today, the buzzword is “collaboration”…this way we will turn all lemons into lemonade…and all participants in the game of life will endure. Regards, Keith J, Author “365 Great Affirmations”

  7. Jonathan,

    This story brought back the memory of the heated verbal fights my son (then 13) and daughter(then 7) would get into over who would ride in the front seat of the car every time we went somewhere.

    A negotiated truce was absolutely essential.

    The deal was they would take turns. Since we were in the car a lot running errands and going to lessons, they alternated riding shotgun each time we got back in the car.

    This continued for a full year it seems until one day I noticed they didn’t care anymore. One of them would resume their starting position and tell the other to sit in the front.

    They may have matured, but I must confess that I’m Garbage Wrapper Girl about competitions that I create in my own head and that my competitors don’t even know exist.

    My handyman, for example, is very knowledgeable about many things such as computers, printers,cameras,etc. and he seems to have vacationed all over the world. I’m always trying to beat him to the punch on discovering something new or getting unique camera shots of events such as the Eclipse. I was hoping he didn’t remember the Eclipse, but he did. He not only remembered, but got better shots. Drats!

    ~I wonder if he’ll be shooting pictures at the LA Marathon in March in L.A.?~

  8. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Jeff – Count me among the Starbucks brainwashed! Funny thing is, I remember, when they first started, telling people how I hated their coffee because I wasn’t into dark roast. Now, I not only like it, I pay through the nose for it! Go figure!

    @ Keith – thanks for the buzzword of the day, man.

    @ Flora – Tell me about it! As I was writing this, more and more memories and stories started flooding into my memory! And, hey, I’m rooting for YOU on the next eclipse!

  9. […] What warring first graders taught me about perceived value – Very clever post, it seems many adults still have a lot of the same traits they had when they were children, I think they’re just far better at masking them… […]

  10. […] What Warring First Graders Taught Me About Perceived Value I couldn’t help but think about my own experiences trading baseball cards on the playground when I was in first grade. (@ jonathan fields / awake at the wheel) […]