Life Imitating the Lillian Vernon Catalogue: Some Thoughts On Kids and Entrepreneurship


The other day as I was pulling into my parents’ neighborhood I was flagged down by some kids at a lemonade stand.“Hey! Come buy some lemonade!” I actually heard them through my rolled up windows. They were shouting like kids do, as though it were coming right out of their spines, so I gave them the thumbs up and OK signal through the glass, promising to catch them on my way out.I’m one of those people: if I tell the Girl Scouts I’ll buy cookies on my way out of the supermarket, I actually do. 

So, fair and square, fifteen minutes later I parked where they were set up—four kids and their mom—and hopped out of the car.By the expression on their faces you would have thought I was Santa himself.“Oh! Oh, hi! You are our first customer,” the big sister announced.“Cool!” Not taking the time to take the whole scene in, I inquired about the price.“Oh, it’s five cents,” laughed the girl.Five cents?And sure enough there was a carefully lettered sign that read 5c.“The seems a little low,” I said. “Don’t you think it should be more? Here, take a dollar.” Just as I was about to ask how they'd arrived at their market price, their mom piped up.“The little brother is free,” she joked—and, low and behold, he wore a carefully lettered sign that read “FREE LITTLE BROTHER” around his neck.“We’re actually just doing a photo shoot,” she said. “…but then they decided they wanted to actually sell the lemonade.”

Don’t Bother Selling The Lemonade. Just Smile For the Camera.

Now, maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, but I think this is indicative of a pretty big problem. Specifically, why do we live in a culture in which kids don’t have real lemonade stands and are, instead, set up to pose with mommy-designed props so that they look like they’re selling lemonade?This raises a couple questions:

1Has the way that we live our lives as adults and what we show children in the media changed to such an extent that it doesn’t occur to them to want to start little businesses and be industrious? Was there ever a time in which rolling up your sleeves was more part of our culture than it is now?

2Has digital photography changed the way we “document” things? Having grown up in the age of film, I’m pretty sure only big events in my life were snapped for posterity. As we look back at our own classic photos of growing up, are we conflating the importance of authentic “classic childhood learning moments” and “having photos of things that look like classic childhood learning moments” because it’s so easy to crank out images?

I think I might be on to something. Am I being too “C’est-ci n’est pas un pipe,” about this?What do you think?

Elizabeth KingComment