Sunday, June 17, 2012

Angels, Demons and Fathers Day

So the tiramisu and the whole Fathers Day deal is in the bag and I'm not ashamed to say it was a home run. At least for me.  Alison is in the doghouse a bit.

When we were shopping for Jenna's birthday gifts, she'd run across these $28 shoes she wanted at Claire's. I reminded her that we we shopping for Jenna and asked if she had $28 on her.

Yes, she knew Jenna was the priority and no, she didn't have $28. But she was sure she had some cash in her room she'd been hoarding in the form of coins.  I had inside information that in lieu of a gift bag, Amy was going to give the girls shopping money.  (Best idea in the history of birthday parties, btw.) So I said if she could come up with $10, I was sure she'd be able to get the shoes before the weekend was over.

So we bought Jenna a couple pairs of earrings. But wait! It was buy two get one free. Surely we'd be irresponsible not to get a third. For Alison.

Then it was off to the hot-store-of-the-moment: Justice. It's always 40 percent off there. But wait! The perky sales girl asked if we were on their mailing list or had their coupons in hand. It was ANOTHER 40 percent off of certain merchandise. At 80 percent off, we'd be irresponsible not to get an outfit for Alison, too. Right?

Ugh. Yes, these were conversations I had in my head and agreed to -- all knowing she'd be bringing home a set of new shoes, too. (This is why the captain thinks I'm a pushover. But still: free and 80 percent off? That's hard to beat.)

So we get home. She rifles through her room and sure enough comes up with $12 in coins she's been squirreling away.  This is separate from her actual bank savings account and the heart-shaped tin where she's keeping her Christmas, folding money.

For Jeff's gift, we'd gone to the Apple store for a gift card. He'd been very clear that the computer he's been eyeing to replace our 10-year-old laptop or his nearly as old PC was too expensive to qualify for a Fathers Day gift. So we got him a card to help pay for the whole thing later. Alison had hidden it in a real apple, tied with string. 

At the store, I had her tell the clerk what we wanted and how much.

"Wow. You can do that much?" she asked me. I offer to let her chip in. "It's not like he's my father," you know, I say. She informs me that she's  comfortable with me carrying the freight.

On Saturday we go to the bank. She makes her transaction and gets $11.50 back. "Um. excuse me, " she says in her best grown-up voice to the clerk, without even checking with me. "But shouldn't I get $12?"

The clerk checks.  She, the woman paid to count coins for a living, is sure she's even. I suggest Ali go back to the car to see if she remembered each of the rolls of coins she'd rolled so painstakingly the night before. She skips out and comes back to fork over the forgotten pennies. Twelve dollars even.

I send her off with the birthday girls, letting Amer and Aunt La in on the idea that Amer was going to subsidize the shoes. It's OK, I said. She can buy THE SHOES. Just the shoes. That was our deal.

When I pick her up, I learn she's asked Ginny (Amy's mother and a beloved member of our extended family) to "float" her $3. To be clear, Alison was desperately seeking Amy to ask for the loan but Amy was busy and Ginny stepped in. And floated her $3 to buy the earrings she just couldn't resist. Yes. On top of the shoes.

The earrings were a set of one devil and one angel. Could that be more freaking appropriate?

Seconds after she presented her "apple" to her father, she takes me aside and whispers: "What did YOU get him?"

I have a terrible. TERRIBLE. habit of floating Alison money. Sometimes I remember to get it back. Sometimes I don't. But this one is totally on me.  But I do not ever expect her to ask for this floating privilege from anyone else. Maybe Dad. He almost always negotiates some high interest and makes her repay him.

So on the way home, we talk about this issue and I tell her that she's going to have to forfeit her entire $5 allowance to me next week to make up for the $3 float and in punishment for going beyond her agreement. Thirty dollars on shoes! After a new outfit and new earrings!!!!!!  Oh. I was not happy.

So a time goes by. She's not sulking but she's quiet. I ask her what the best part of the birthday weekend was. "Well. It wasn't when my mother didn't trust me not to ask people for money," she said.

"But you DID ask people for money!" I exclaim.

"Well," she starts, then sighs. "Yeah. I guess."

I tell her that I don't mean to be too hard on her and that I know the Tokashes are special people to us and I understand why she'd feel comfortable asking them to float her. They're family. We love them and we know they love us.

So I give her an example of a situation where an older girl was (in my assessment) not respectful or loving or nice to her mother and that my lectures and rules were designed to keep her from turning into an ungrateful, selfish and hateful teenager.  She reflected on that a bit and agreed that she could live with the terms and understood the deal

Flash forward to Fathers Day dinner. We've fed and feted Dad. She's clearing the table in anticipation of surprising him with his tiramisu. I fill him, the financial (and other) disciplinarian, telling him that among my discussions with her was that part of my bringing down the hammer was part of my deal with Dad to co-parent on helping her learn about responsibility, personal and financial.  I sit back and wait for the reaction.

He is concerned with her spending spree, as I expected. But he says, "I think you think you've just gotten her out of a lecture from me and I'm not so sure you've succeeded. "

I sigh. I talk a bit more. She brings out the tiramisu and a wineglass of milk for him. He and I continue enjoying the amazingly complex $6  (but 89 point-rated) wine we're trying out.  He sighs.

"You know, this might be the best Fathers Day ever," he said. "You know I love good food. You know I want to buy a new computer. You guys worked really hard to make this dinner, to make the tiramisu and to put together my gift. You worked really, really hard to make this a really special day. Thank you."

"Yes, I did!" Alison agreed, as she cleared the last of the dishes.

I close my eyes. Jeff  takes a bite of his home-made tiramisu. He sips his wine. He looks at her as she disappears into the house.

"The next lesson I'm going to teach her," he said. "is modesty."

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