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Beacon Senior News

The costs of living with Dad

Jun 01, 2022 03:41PM ● By Jaci Lawson

Growing up my siblings and I had the worst allowance of any kids in the neighborhood. If we wanted an increase in our allowance, we had to talk to my dad, who was a subcontracts negotiator for the aerospace industry. 

The minute we mentioned money, his face changed. He was like a professional poker player before they turn over the last hole card: completely expressionless.

We would get a litany of chores and a list of bonuses provided for free by our parents:  food, clothing, shelter and the cost of living. It didn’t matter where we were living, the cost of living always went up. Even when we did negotiate an increase, it was a nickel or a dime. Our allowance was so low, we usually didn’t bother asking for it.

We’d approach my mom for money instead—money to go roller skating, to the movies or to buy ice cream. Like any good parent, our mom would tell us to go ask our father.

“Daddy, can we go to the movie?” 

“Sure,” he’d say. 

We would hug and kiss him, say thank you and then put our hands out.

“What?”

We would explain that we needed money.

“Do I look like I have any money?” he’d say with his poker face.

“Yes.”

He would pull out the white insides of his front pants pockets—empty. 

“See? No money. Do you think money grows on trees?”

“Come on, Dad....”

Nothing. In fact, my father never physically handed me money until after I got married. 

We had to go tell my mother who talked to him and then came back and gave us the money.

When we turned 10 or 11, my dad would tell us to get a job every time we asked for money. I thought chores was our job, but apparently my dad thought we should be entrepreneurs. I didn’t even know what the word meant—except maybe poor.

Becoming a father

We were worse at making money than we were at doing chores. My brother’s paper route lasted approximately as long as my dad’s patience for making him get up early to deliver papers. We tried collecting bottles, mowing lawns, selling lemonade...I finally became an enthusiastic babysitter, but only after I discovered adults with small children keep interesting magazines in the bathroom and lurid romance novels on the coffee table. A 12-year-old should not be reading “Love’s Tender Fury” or “Lust in the Dust,” but it certainly expanded my vocabulary and my passion for literature—and I got paid a dollar an hour!

My first real job was in a yarn store. It was perfect—no children, no chores—just yarn and pattern books, needlepoint, rug hooking and embroidery kits. The owner asked me if I could knit. I gave her my dad’s poker face and said yes. Could I crochet? Yes. Needlepoint? Yes. I don’t think she believed me, but she offered me the job and I went home to teach myself how to knit.

Years later, I worked at an ice cream shop and learned that every job has it perks: free ice cream. I worked at a movie theatre: free popcorn. I learned how to count change accurately and quickly. I worked as a waitress and learned that even though women are pickier than men and less likely to leave a big tip, you still have to smile at everyone.

But it was my dad who taught me the value of a dollar and my mom who taught me that friends in high places are more powerful than money. I tried my best to pass those lessons along to my own children, but now I am the grandma. When my grandkids ask me for money, I empty my pockets and my change jar and then I tell them to go ask Pa for money because it pays to know that I am not the only soft touch in this house.

Make this Father's Day one he'll remember