Help! My daughter thinks we're broke because I haven't bought a Wii

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Last night, I overheard my six-year-old daughter make a comment to my wife, that got me thinking. Just what I can conclude from this, I'm still working out.

My daughter, Isabelle, saw a reference in some ad to Wii, the popular Nintendo game (as if I need to tell anyone what Wii is). And she made an off-hand comment to my wife that we can't afford to buy Wii.

It sort of stung for a variety of reasons. One, I'd like to think that I could afford to buy my girls a round-trip ticket to the Moon, if that's what they wanted. Two, I know Isabelle would love a Wii console and all of the games that go with it. Three, what killed me is that it isn't that I can't afford to buy a Wii; I just haven't decided if buying one is worth it to our family.

I mean, we only have so many disposable dollars in our income. We could buy a Wii, but then maybe we wouldn't go on a vacation this summer, or we'd go on a smaller one. Or maybe we could have our Wii and our vacation, too, but we'd decide to cut back somewhere else, whether on the restaurants or movies that we go to, or the books that we buy. It's an inexact science, just what our disposable income is, but I know we'd take a hit somewhere, even if we didn't necessarily feel like we were cutting back.But the main reason we haven't bought a Wii is that my daughters, especially Isabelle, are addicted enough to the computer games on children web sites like Nick Jr. If we get the family a Wii, I may never see my daughters -- or my wife, for that matter -- again. (In breaking the stereotype, I'm the one who rarely plays computer games, where my wife loves them.)

And so this morning, I've been thinking about some of the other things I "can't afford to buy" my family.
  • A trampoline. Those giant trampolines that you see in some backyards -- like one of my neighbor's, in clear view of the kids when we're in our yard -- look like so much fun. They have the wall netting that protects you from careening into the sky and crashing on the ground, and they're obviously great exercise. I would have bought one for my daughters -- and for me, too -- long ago, but when I took on some new home owner's insurance a few years ago, one of the few questions that I was asked was if I had a trampoline in the backyard.I didn't ask my insurer, but I knew immediately that trampolines must be a serious accident magnet. And I just looked up some statistics a few minutes ago to beef up my argument. There's been a 50% increase in trampoline-related accidents in England over the last five years. Sure, I live near Cincinnati, Ohio, but that's good enough for me. (Like I have all day to look up trampoline-related accident statistics?)
  • One of those giant playground structures for the backyard. Again, yes, I could scrounge up the money to put one in our backyard, and I'm a little envious and completely supportive of the families that have made the leap. But I know how my mind works, and I know how my kids' operate. I take them to a lot of parks, almost every weekend, and so suddenly, I wouldn't want to take them to play at a playground at a park after spending the money to build one in our backyard. But I have a feeling my daughters would eventually get bored with their own playground equipment, after becoming extremely familiar with it. And so we'd be in a stalemate. I wouldn't want to leave the backyard; they wouldn't want to stay. Still, one of these days, I probably should get some swing set or something. I had one as a kid and loved it.
  • One of those inflatable swimming pools with the giant slide, that look a little like a kid's castle. I've seen them at places like Target and Wal-Mart. They're about $300 or so, although some smaller ones are considerably less, and they look absolutely incredibly fun. My daughters drool when they see them, and so do I, frankly. I love the thought of the girls out there, splashing around all summer in this giant inflatable contraption while I lounge around in a chair sipping lemonade or what have you. It's not that I can't afford to buy one of these, I keep explaining to Isabelle and Lorelei. What I'm sure I can't afford is to buy one every weekend. We have two big dogs with teeth and claws, one of whom loves to chew apart every bouncy ball that we've ever bought and thrown around in the yard. I keep picturing our dogs tearing the inflatable swimming castle within the first 10 minutes of setting it up.
  • An elephant. OK, I really can't afford to buy one of those.

Anyway, clearly, one of these days, I'm going to have to explain more thoroughly to my daughter that not wanting or feeling able to buy something is more complicated than not having enough money. It's often not that original purchase price that's so bad, after all. It's all of those costs that come afterwards.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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