p1000511 OK, so cutest thing ever, my daughters and their friend Audrey set up a lemonade stand outside our building on Grand Street this evening.

The idea arose when Vivian said that she wanted an(other) American Girl doll–Daughter of the American Revolution Felicity’s best friend Elizabeth who, not for nothing, has pierced ears–and I told her that she’d better start saving because there’s no way I was going to spend over $100 for a doll, and that her grandparents were tapped out from the purchase of Felicity herself for Chanukah.

I figured, as countless parents have done before me, that I’d seize the opportunity to teach my girls, who are six, a thing or two about the good old-fashioned American entrepreneurial spirit. Work ain’t easy–that’s why they call it work! All that stuff making it so we can’t find anything in our apartment? Mom and dad busted our butts to buy it. No one owes you a living in this life–you have to earn it. I also wanted them to understand that a dime is worth more than a nickel, even though it’s smaller.

They were not lazy–I’ll grant them that. They ran up to potential customers and reeled them in, gradually learning which were good marks (parents with children, young men out with women who wanted to demonstrate that they were not against children on principle) and which were not (people carrying a lot of bags, people pushing shopping carts with all their belongings in them.)

But I’ll tell you, they didn’t learn what I had hoped they would, which was that people don’t just give you things because you’re cute. You know why? Because people just gave them things because they were cute!

With one exception, every single person paid a dollar on a 25 cent cup of lemonade. And some who didn’t want a drink couldn’t bear to say no to three adorable white kids who were as close to a plucky Normal Rockwell tableau as you’ll ever see on New York’s Lower East Side. They’d smile their gap-tooth smiles, and it was good for a 300% tip, even from a trio of ragged young adults who appeared to live in a nearby park and I’m pretty sure were drug addicts.

What does this have to do with being a Formerly, you might be wondering? I’m not entirely sure, except that the older you get, the less likely a smile and a sweet “thank you!” will yield actual cash money. In between praising the girls for saying thank you and not spilling, I couldn’t help pointing out that people simply handing you cash on the street and expecting nothing in return never happens in real life.

I could tell they didn’t believe me, and why would they? They earned $33 in an hour and a half. Still, I’d better remember to teach them some skills other than smiling, because unless they can figure out a way to bottle cuteness and market it like they did the lemonade, they’re going to need it.