My six-year-old daughter has an old friend—in as much as first graders can have old friends—who is a boy who used to live in Brooklyn but moved west. He visited again recently, and after a long absence, they fell to discussing something that has suddenly become important to them: money.
“I have $75,” said the boy, a statement that his mother later verified as true.
“Oh, that’s funny. I have $68,” said my daughter, a statement that was categorically false. Even after Santa delivered that bag of real gold she asked for (ten Sacagawea dollar coins in a little satchel, as it turned out), she still doesn’t have more than $25 to her name. But the old friends just turned to each other and laughed. “We have SO much money,” they said one after the other.
The last time they saw each other, they really didn’t feel this way about money. Yes, she’s had a half-full piggy bank on her nightstand for years, but this thing of talking a lot about money, and this magical thinking (read: lying) about how much money she has is new. Watching them made me think that salary bragging might be an actual developmental step. Kids are often braggarts, which seems—if I can indulge in some armchair psychiatry—like a useful shield for them as they start to look around and see just how little they are capable of in the adult world.
The leap from piggy-bank fibbing to salary-bragging is a natural one. At an older age, it is still the defense of the braggart, particularly of men who are ever-aware that they have less and earn less and are less than others on this earth. But I’ll say this about salary bragging and six-year-olds: as with so many social and cognitive milestones, young girls are simply a little more advanced than the boys.