(NOTE: If you have not read Part One yet, please click here to do so before continuing. Thanks.)
Only slightly daunted, I began in earnest to prepare my child to live independently in the world. Money, I figured was the best place to start as every time I explained I didn’t have enough, her response was, “Get it from the bank,” as if the bank was a giant brick grandmother that simply doled out twenties benevolently to anyone who happened to have a plastic card.
The game proceeded like this:
I placed a quarter in a closed fist. Sarah placed a plastic card in my other outstretched hand, which unclenched my fist and she got the quarter. Playing bank was fun. She did it twice more and had 3 shiny quarters in her hand, visions of supermarket super balls dancing in her head. The next time she did it, my unclenched fist was bereft of a quarter. Her face sunk. She tried again. Same result. When I explained that in order to get more quarters out, she had to put more quarters in. Visual learning and hands-on experiences are, after all, what I do all day as an educator.
“You’re a mean bank,” Sarah retorted.
I explained that all banks were just as mean and debated whether this was a time to start an economics lesson about supply and demand. Nope. Sarah skulked off to her room, muttering, “Stupid banks!” and slamming her door.
Now, granted, I am not a shining example of money management. Money has always been a source of stress and angst for me. I grew up in the 60’s on the upper west side of Manhattan before it was fashionable. We were unsupervised street kids and everybody knew everybody from the block. School was around the corner and down one street. I walked by myself at 6. We kids never had money; we had “tabs.” We were able to walk into the corner deli, grab a soda and some Dipsy Doodles, yell, “charge it” and tear out into the streets without anyone batting an eye. Our parents were the pillars of the community.
By 7, I had been barred by both the deli and the Last pharmacy which sold black currant pastilles in a tin. The sight of those still brings a nostalgic glitch to my soul. It wasn’t that I overindulged in cough drops or cheese doodles. In fact, there was a plethora of Twinkies and circus peanuts and other atrocities on our kitchen table at all times. It was that my parents never paid the bills.
I mean – not ever!
My undiagnosed Aspie father just never connected the dots from unpaid bills to collection notices to lawsuits, all of which were plentiful, not that he would know as he rarely opened his mail.
I was embarrassed being that kid, the one who waited outside the store, so as an adult, I never owned a credit card and meticulously calculated how much could be spent on any given day. I am not proud of my monetary anxieties but am proud that my child never felt my struggles personally. I assumed by bringing her to the bank with me and having her balance my checkbook, she would become aware and fiscally responsible. Plus, she loved pushing the buttons and memorized my pass codes so I thought another routine had been established.
Flash forward to high school when Sarah was given her own account to manage. By this point, she was lucky enough to have a few relatives that periodically sent her a check. She was good at math, far better than me at this juncture, so I let it be. About 5 months later, Sarah receives a notice that not only is all her money gone but that she is three hundred and something dollars overdrawn and she swears she has not spent a penny.
I assume it must be identity theft again. She fell prey to some crazy door-to door knife-selling scheme last year. That debacle cost me two hundred dollars and I didn’t even get that set of knives that could cut through a tin can.
At the bank, I was informed my daughter had joined both Greenpeace and Children’s International, saving the world thirty-three dollars a month for the latter and twenty-five for the former.
“This has to be an error,” I say. But then I remembered that it is always better to question Sarah in front of witnesses. Like the proverbial Dr. Jekyll, Sarah would only show her dark side to a select few (usually me) and mostly under the cloak of night.
At the desk of a very friendly bank clerk, she was asked again if these transactions were hers.
“No,” she replied, tearfully.
“I am confused how this group was able to get your credit card,” I said, in the most neutral of voices.
“Well,” she begins, “I was in Union Square when someone asked me if I wanted to save the children and I didn’t want them to think I was a mean person, so I filled out this paper.”
“And that paper asked for your credit card?”
“Well, yes, but I didn’t think they meant every month.”
“And I suppose you didn’t notice the money being taken out of your account,” the lovely bank lady asked.
“I am in school,” She choked out, “I don’t have time to look!”
I restrained myself from pointing out that she has rarely gone more than an hour from posting on Facebook! And apparently, she also wanted to save the whales but neglected to read the contract.
The nice bank lady made some calls. We played the autism card and we were able to recoup half her money with hopefully a lesson learned.
Since that day almost 5 years ago, whenever I am asked by Children’s International if I want to save the children, I simply smile and say, “Sorry, I am spending way more than 33 dollars a month just trying to save my own.”
// …to be continued