“Love your kids.”

“Huh?”

“Love your kids.”

“I already do.”

Love… Your… Kids…”

And so began another little journey into understanding a little more about who God is and what being a parent is supposed to be.

I’m not sure why I was told that – I just know that during one of my chats with God (most people would call this ‘praying’) – He said three words…  Very simply, without a clue as to why this time was any more special than any other time.. “Love your kids”

I’ve learned, over time, that if you don’t pay attention to God’s Celestial Feather Duster, you occasionally get acquainted with God’s Celestial 4 x 4.  Having had enough experience with the 4 x 4, and the scars to prove it, I knew that paying attention to the Feather Duster would be a good idea.

So I paid attention.

And a few days after that, on a Sunday, just after church, my phone rang, and it was my daughter, in an absolute panic because she’d been working so hard at putting in practice all the hard lessons she’d learned about finances, and one automatic payment hadn’t been cancelled when she’d done a payment early manually.  Bottom line, if both payments hit at the same time, there wasn’t going to be enough there to cover it, and there were going to be fees – reminders of those lessons she’d been taught in that hard way that we often learn lessons when we’re young.

She had the money – it was supposed to get there on Friday. Problem is, it was Sunday, so she needed to borrow money for 5 days and was willing to write me a check to deposit on Friday.

The thing is, she hates calling and asking for money.  She hates it because it’s clear to her that asking for money means she hasn’t planned properly, and she sees it as a failure on her part, but she gritted her teeth, and picked up the phone, and made a call she didn’t want to make.

That I got just as I was leaving church.

“Love Your Kids…”

So I listened on the phone for a bit, and she explained with that adrenaline fueled desperation sound in her voice that I’ve heard from myself how she was in a place she didn’t want to be and how hard it was for her to be making that call.  I realized the rest of this conversation would be better done face to face, so I went over to her house, and we talked.

On the way I found myself thinking about this whole “Love your kids” thing – and finances, and how parents often find themselves helping their kids through things that they themselves have gone through – it’s that “circle of life” thing… and it took me back a few years to when I was in Grad school…

…where the lessons we learned weren’t all in the classroom.

It was grad school for photojournalism – back in the days of film, when a digital camera cost $10,000.00, and our evening routine was being either in the darkroom or the computer lab.  In this case, it was the computer lab, where we were working on stories for our projects, or layouts, or whatever.  We’d stay there till it closed – usually around 11:00, and for those of us who’d had dinner, 11:00 was pretty late, and we were pretty hungry by then.

Someone actually mentioned this. More specifically, they mentioned that they were hungry for pizza.

We were grad students.

None of us had enough money to buy a pizza.

All of us together, however, did.

Next thing we heard was “Anybody wanna go in on a pizza?”

And it turned out that $2.50 would do a nice job of getting a couple of slices of pizza, which would be enough to make it until the lab closed and we had to leave.

I didn’t have cash, so I wrote a check out for the $2.50, and in 30 minutes or less, God’s own gift to college students, a pepperoni pizza was delivered.

It couldn’t have disappeared faster without a swarm of locusts of Biblical proportions.

And… it was gone.

Or so I thought.

See – it turns out that in a college town, overdrawing your account is considered a slightly worse thing than in a standard, everyday town.  And a certain pizza place that used to deliver in 30 minutes or less categorically refused to put up with that, so no matter what happened, if your check bounced, it went to collections faster than a – well, a pizza delivery driver on commission…

Now financial institutions work wonders with money you don’t have.  In this case, the bank charged me $15.00 for bouncing a check for $2.50.  The collection agency thought they’d jump in, too, and charged me another $15.00.

And they sent me mail to prove it.

I – um – didn’t see that envelope until I got another one in the mail, telling me that they’d be happy to continue charging me another $15.00 a month…

…for the privilege of sending me notes asking for another $15.00 a month…

At this point, that incredible pepperoni pizza – correction, those two slices of pepperoni pizza – had cost me $47.50.

Long story short, once I figured out my finances, I realized I was in what some have described as “deep kimchee”, and I needed help.  My student loan had not come in as expected, so I was living right on the financial edge, and those two slices of pizza had thrown me over it.  I knew I needed help, but to ask for it required an admission that I hadn’t taken care of things like I should.  In the end, I had to make a telephone call to my grandmother, who had lived through the depression, correction – lived through THE Depression, the one in 1929 – not this recession we’ve just gone through, and in her mind, the way you lived was simple:

Use it up.

Wear it out.

Make it do…

…or do without.

You did not waste money.

Period.

So calling her and asking her to help bail me out of this was one of the hardest calls I ever had to make.  She didn’t seem to think that spending money like that was particularly wise (I agreed) – but she sent me some money that helped me get through until that delayed student loan of mine finally came through.

And I thought about all this as I was heading over to visit my daughter, who had actually done something far less silly, but had the same feelings about calling me and asking for money as I did in calling my grandma.

I wanted to make sure that my daughter understood that this kind of stuff happens, people aren’t perfect, and I didn’t want to do anything silly to try to pretend I’m perfect, because I know I’m not.  When I was telling her this story of my past, along the lines of “When I was your age…” she asked, being between jobs, “Does it ever get better?”

I tried to tell her that it does, but at that moment, had to focus my thoughts on the ATM machine – which, for some reason, wasn’t giving me any money out of my checking account…

I tried savings.

Same thing…

This is weird – I know there’s enough money there…

Eventually I found that the card was linked to the wrong account and transferred some to the right place, but what got me about the whole thing was that there really was less money there in the account than I thought.

And it wasn’t there because an automatic payment of mine had gone out that I’d forgotten about.

Which was why we were here in the first place, one generation later.

When I told her that – she just laughed and laughed.

Things do get better – if you’re saving money – you have some stashed away that you can help your kids with.

And somewhere in all of this, I knew that this was one of my chances to “Love My Kids”

And I’m glad I was able to be there for her.

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