It’s sweltering. It’s humid. It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, which, for the record, I once tried and found that it doesn’t really work; even when I put a frying pan on the sidewalk and tried to fry the egg in that, no dice.
So, OK, let’s just say it’s boiling outside, which means it is time for kids all over America to earn their first fistful of quarters by setting up a lemonade stand. But if you take the lemonade stand advice of one of the top magazines for parents (hint: it ends with “ing”), don’t even think about it. Your kids will end up like so many homeowners, underwater.
In an article titled “The Big Squeeze,” the magazine lists a dozen different things you can or should buy for the stand, starting with $8 ice trays and up to and including an automatic juicer for the lemons ($50), fancy straws ($20) and — get this — an official wooden lemonade stand from Toys R Us.
That one’s $140 — not counting the storage room you’ll need to rent for it the other three seasons of the year.
Add up all the recommended purchases — special cups, an ice shaver, lemonade-scented soap — and the total cost comes to $280. Before lemons or sugar! If your children sell at the traditional 50- cent price point, they will have to unload 560 cups of lemonade before breaking even.
And we wonder why the country is in such an economic garbage can?
The thing about childhood and summer and fun is that often the less it costs the more fun it is. Buy an official lemonade stand and the kids have done nothing except come along for the ride (spewing Goldfish crumbs in the back seat). Have your kids make a stand and there’s sweat and pride and just some darn action on the part of the children instead of the inactivity we keep foisting upon them. “Don’t ride your bike. I’ll drive you there.” “Don’t make a mess. Let me do it for you.” “Don’t get frustrated. I’ll handle it.”
I started asking folks about their lemonade stand stories, and it turns out that everyone’s got one. One mom talked about her kids sitting out there in the hot sun, selling one cup every halfhour, “hanging in there but getting tired.” Then suddenly, a customer pulled up in his sports car, handed them a $20 bill, chugged his drink and told them to keep the change. “They talk about this guy 15 years later as some kind of amazing apparition.”
Now I’m talking about him, too! Another mom told me that when her 12-year-old son heard there was going to be a commercial shot in the neighborhood, he juiced 40 lemons and sold enough of the liquid gold to net $125.
And then there was the girl who went to her local block party long ago and, in the grand tradition of selling drinks (if not exactly lemonade), talked her godparents into letting her man the keg. As she poured out beer, she recalls, everyone tipped her for it, “even the cops in attendance.” Two hours later, her mom found out what she was doing. “Boy, was she mad that I manipulated my way into business,” she said, “but proud that I had learned how to earn money. For the manipulation, I had to buy a toy to donate to charity. For earning the money, I got to buy myself one, too. Apparently, I chose to buy myself supplies for a brownie stand.”
That is the spirit that will keep this country great. The spirit behind a $140 prefab lemonade stand? That will do its part, too. It takes America-sized chutzpah to sell a thing like that.
Just don’t buy one.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” and “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now.”