KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
Here’s how teenagers and money work. Checking my emails the other morning, I come across a receipt from iTunes for € 9.92. On the basis that, these days, I have to ask The Boy what my password is every time I buy a piece of music, I’ve a strong inkling that the purchase is not mine. ‘You owe me a tenner,’ I tell him, as soon as he gets up (we dispensed with ‘good mornings’ around about 2006). He acknowledges the debt with a shrug that can be loosely interpreted as ‘go sing for it’.
An hour later, though, a wonderful piece of serendipity intervenes. I had been at the theatre the previous evening with The Youngest and, too leaden with early-onset weekend sloth, the rest of the family had decided to order in pizza rather than cook. And it turned out that when The Man knocked on the door, the only one in the house with cash was The Boy. Of course, I only become aware of this after The Husband has been to the shops and attempts, on his return, to hand two €10 notes to The Boy. ‘I’ll have one of those,’ I offer — thinking, for once, that I might actually break even on a financial transaction in this household. And it sits there, on the kitchen table, beside my laptop, for a whole half hour; a lovely, crisp, once-in-a-lifetime tenner. Then The Boy staggers off the couch and announces he needs money for phone credit. And there it is, gone. My moment in the sun is over and the status quo of me as a tennerleaking piggy bank is restored.
Before I had children, I was warned that they would cost me the earth, but the funny thing is, they didn’t. When they were little, their food intake scarcely made an impact on the house- hold budget and once they emerged from nappies, their general upkeep amounted to the kind of expense a TD could plausibly pass off as an eventful road trip. Even now, aged 11, The Youngest is still a relatively cheap date. She doesn’t grow in an unseemly manner, isn’t bothered about a phone and is practically selfsufficient in the toy department. In fact, on the basis that it is her hidden purse I plunder on a regular basis to pay for the older two’s demanding shenanigans, she is practically profitable.
But oh, those other two. Phrase most uttered
‘You owe me €10,’
I tell The Boy as soon as he gets up (we dispensed with ‘good mornings’ around 2006)
by The Boy this summer? ‘I need €3.50 for a sliotar. Just give me that tenner and I’ll bring back the change.’ Frequency of said change being voluntarily handed over? Zero. Frequency of my remembering to pursue it? About 50 per cent. Frequency of outrage over my insisting on pursuing it? One hundred per cent.
His sister, meanwhile, has taken to public transport with the zeal of her long-converted mother and the same source of bus fare. In her case, at least, the system requires the right change (I never thought I’d give thanks for that Dublin Bus-imposed restriction) — but comes with the caveat that since she regularly misses the bus or gets on the wrong one, she always needs ‘emergency money’. The other night, when she missed the last 75, I instructed her to use the emergency money on a taxi home: when I told her that she then needed to repay it, she insisted that technically it was I and not she who had spent it.
Meanwhile, just as The Boy has taken to plundering my iTunes account, she has taken to ravaging my Ticketmaster account, where she buys gig tickets for herself and her friends with only the vaguest intention of ever paying any of the money back. Worse, she ticks that box that tells her friends she’s attending an event — which, since it’s my account, appears on everyone else’s Ticketmaster account as a promise that I’m attending every half-cocked teenage rave in Fibber’s. I am not. I am just paying for everyone else to.
Anyway, exhausted and broke, we are finally changing the habit of a lifetime and starting to dispense pocket money. We will still pay for their phone credit — because, like most parents, we like to know that they can turn off their phones when they see our number come up, wherever they are — but starting this week, sliotars, bus fares and spice bags (don’t ask; trust me, you are better off not knowing) will have to be paid for from their modest weekly allowance.
As to how modest that allowance will be, we are still in a protracted and difficult process of negotiation. We would send out for pizza, but I think we all know who’d end up paying for it.