Birth of a Saleswoman

It's fundraising time!

I’ve not posted on the exploits of Ella in good while, so I thought I share her latest adventure with you. As you might recall, she started Kindergarten this year, and so far she’s loved every minute.

At least, I think she has. I wouldn’t know – she won’t talk about school. It’s like she’s one of the kids from Sleepers. Or, better yet, like she’s been through R2I training(resistance to interrogation) led by former Spetsnaz commanders. I ask her how her day went, and all I get is name, rank, and favorite cereal flavor.

But last week things changed. She came home with a special note in her folder: Fund Raiser (sic).

Now, I personally like what her school does – instead of selling useless items like chocolate, wrapping paper, and other assorted cheap knick-knacks, Trip Elementary sells coupon cards that get you discounts at local retailers. For $20.00 you get over $100.00 in discounts that can be used over and over again through the course of a year. It’s a pretty snazzy little deal.

But liking the fundraiser and actually liking the fund raising are two separate things.

I hated fundraisers when I was a kid. I was shy, a bit unsure of myself, and the thought of going door-to-door and soliciting potential rejection was about as pleasant as the thought of being dragged naked through the girl’s locker room during gym. Even in elementary school I recognized the futility of trying to sell people crap they don’t need or want at prices they weren’t willing to pay; so when other kids were somehow able to con people into buying hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of dollars of that dreck, I felt a strange sense of shame – as well as a fair certainty who some of my future political representatives would be.

Thus, when I saw the Fund Raiser packet, I began preparing my speech on dealing with life’s disappointments, because I knew that when the first person rejected her, she would fall to pieces like an Congressional budget.

Ella, however, was completely excited for the opportunity to sell stuff, another reminder that she only gets half of her genes from me. We haven’t had the chance to do some door-to-door schlepping before tonight, so when I came home from work, Ella met me at the door, her little fundraiser cards in her hands.

“Please, daddy,” she begged, “can we go outside and give these cards away?”

I agreed, with the stipulations that we would be selling the cards for money, not giving them away, and that we would head out after dinner, a concept which bugged her to no end.

“Why can’t we just go out now, daddy? The people’s houses are there.”

“Yes,” I replied, “but just because the houses are there, it doesn’t mean the people are. If we wait until after dinner, we’ll have a better chance of catching people at home.”

“But we’re home now,” she countered.

“Yes we are. But we’re strange.”

Ella agreed to postpone our inaugural sales jaunt until after dinner, and I was glad; personally, I was terrified that she would get rejected right off the bat, and I wasn’t sure how either of us would handle it. Because of our history, we’ve been very cautious with Ella; I won’t say we’ve been overprotective because we actually give her a fair amount of liberty to try and fail at things on her own. But we, and by we I mean me, have always been a little leery of how people might treat our daughter. The unknown in so much of human interaction scares me, because it means my little girl might get hurt.

It’s a silly fear, I suppose, but it’s one of my biggest when it comes to my daughter making her way in the big, bad world.

I tried to prepare Ella for the eventuality. “You know that not everyone is going to buy a card from you, right?”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because not everyone will have the money.”

“Okay.”

“And some people just won’t want one of the cards.”

“Okay.”

“And you know that, just because someone tells you ‘no’, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.”

“Okay.”

“And it’s okay to be disappointed if you don’t sell any cards, but you don’t need to feel like something’s wrong with you.”

“Daddy, quit being weird.”

So, with that stunning sales pep talk out of the way, we headed out the door. Jon decided to join us, so both of them hopped on their bicycles (which sucked for me because a) Jon can’t really ride his; he requires me to push him in order to make the bike go and b) Ella can ride her bike really well and has no problems just taking off and leaving me in her wake) and we hit the first house.

I made Ella practice her sales pitch during dinner. I didn’t tell her what to say; instead, i asked what she thought she should say.

“I’m selling cards because I want to see a BMX show” was her first pitch. It turns out, kids who sell at least five cards get to see a special BMX exhibition at her school.

I told her that people might not find that a compelling reason to buy.

“Okay, then how ’bout, ‘This is for my school. We need money.'”

What can I say? She’s her mother’s daughter.

We settled on, “Hi! My name’s Ella, and I’m selling these cards to raise money for my school.”

I won’t bore you with the details of each and every stop, but I will tell you that my daughter, my Kindergarten princess, rode up to each and every house without me having to prompt her, parked her bike in front of each door, rang every doorbell and handled every pitch ON HER OWN. The only time she looked for me was when she forgot the price, or when someone asked her how the cards worked.

Otherwise, my kid went at this all by herself. And she sold cards at the first three houses she went to.

“This is easy!” she chirped after her third sale. “Let’s get more people’s money!”

Sadly those first three houses were the only ones she sold to. The other five houses we hit were like a Newt Gingrich Gay Pride Parade – no one there. Ella wanted to keep going; I finally shut her down and said it was time for her bath.

Eight houses, three sales, one very grown up daughter. I didn’t feel compelled to cry, but I did marvel at her independence and just how much Kindergarten has given her a confidence boost. I guess when you realize that you can learn to read, or do simple math, or color inside the lines, the world seems your oyster.

Of course, part of her success is attributed to the fact that she is one very articulate, and very cute, kid. But who cares? I watched my daughter take on the world, and it felt pretty darn good. Sure, there’ll be someone who eventually tells her ‘no’ but I’m not really worried about it. Somehow, I don’t think there will be that many.

After all – you’d have to practically be dead to say ‘no’ to a face like this:

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