It was late Thursday evening, and my reserves were depleted.
Did I mention that it was Thursday evening, the kitchen was a mess, and there was no sign of any Shabbos food? As the larder was conspicuously empty, a “mega shopping trip” was called for. On my way out the door, I was waylaid by an unhappy teenager clutching her empty wallet. “Maaa, my friends are going out for ice cream,” she said. “We’re celebrating our last pre-finals weekend. Can I have $20?”
I was about to reach into my pocketbook when I hesitated.
Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. This particular daughter wasn’t exactly penniless. Didn’t she babysit twice last week for the neighbors, at ten bucks an hour?
“But Ma—do you really expect me to spend all of my hard-earned money on taxis and ice cream? Nobody else spends her own money on stuff.”
“Nobody?” I found that a bit hard to believe. “Could you be more specific? Names and Social Security numbers?”
My daughter began listing her friends, counting on her fingers. (As she is a social butterfly, the list was lengthy. I beg your indulgence.)
“Ruchy’s parents give her spending money all the time, and Shiffy has her mother’s credit card in her wallet for emergencies. Faigy earns her own money, but she also only uses it for emergencies. Dina’s grandmother keeps giving her cash, just for stopping by to visit. Bailee’s mother lets her help herself from the petty cash drawer.”
Petty cash drawer? Cool. Where could I find one of those?
“What about Chayale? And Fraidy?”
My daughter shrugged. “I’m not really so close to them anymore. I can’t keep track of my whole class.”
I handed her the $20 with a sour feeling in my gut. My daughter was old enough to know that money didn’t grow on trees. She had her own spending money—granted, not a ton—but enough to pay for “stuff.” Why was she constantly asking for a handout?
When I was growing up, not very long ago, we were taught the value of a dollar from an early age. My parents paid for food, shelter, braces and class trips. Anything else had to be earned, or we learned to live without. Pre- and post-studying trips to the ice cream store? Shopping excursions at the mall? These were luxuries reserved for the wealthy.
Today, however, these indulgences have become the norm, regardless of family circumstances or income. I can’t be the only parent who has an issue with this, I mused, pushing my cart through the crowded aisles of the supermarket.