FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

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.

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