At what point do we become adults? When we’re old enough to vote, drink alcohol legally, join the military, qualify for a mortgage, enter the workforce full time? That’s very much a “Yes and” question, so I apologise. It’s all of those times, plus many more, as becoming an adult is very much a process rather than an event. However, in one important aspect, we never become adults, as I’m about to explain.
I am as guilty of this as anyone, but no matter how old we are, our parents always see us as children. My son turned 16 this summer. He’s already 6 feet 1 tall and shows no sign of slowing down. He is a technological wizard, a damn sight smarter than his old man and a very grounded and aware human being. He has great potential and no doubt a shining future ahead of him. Likewise my daughter the athlete, equestrian, artist and musician. According to her history teacher she has a deep understanding of the state of the Ottoman Empire in the period leading up to World War One, which is more than I have, and I’m the history buff in the family.
However, I have a photo on my fridge of my son when he was less than two years old, wearing a blue and white hooped onesie and sticking his tongue out. I still see him as that toddler despite the fact that he now towers over me. He still has the same haircut, though. Even though my daughter is well on her way to womanhood I still see the three year old in the pink and purple mohair skirt her mother knitted for her.
My dad has the same attitude towards me. My recent financial difficulties are well explored elsewhere in this blog, so I won’t rehash them. Suffice it to say that there were times when my only option was to use my credit card. Lest you think I was throwing money away on luxuries and trinkets, think again. Moving house is a costly experience, I had presents to buy for my kids and ex girlfriend on birthdays and Christmas, as well as car insurance payments and other incidentals. When on a limited income, this stuff builds up no matter what you do, and once you factor in the effect of interest things start to get out of hand. After paying my other bills I found it very difficult to pay down the balance, resorting to paying the interest plus a nominal sum over that in a vain attempt to convince myself that I was actually paying it off.
I had come to realise that at some point even if I didn’t use the card at all I’d have difficulty paying anything more than the interest, at which point who knows what? It would be a mild understatement to say that this was weighing on my mind and causing me no little angst, as there was no way I could afford to pay off the card without leaving myself desperately short of funds on hand. To some extent I had accepted that this was going to be a permanent state of affairs and accepted the burden as a fact of life.
So far the situation had all the elements of a Greek tragedy until in true fashion, a Deus Ex Machina appeared and solved the problem in one fell swoop. If you haven’t figured it out by now, it was my Dad. He really doesn’t like using credit cards, nor even debit cards, so he invariably brings a substantial amount of cash with him. One benefit of this is that he can simply hand me some cash to pay for groceries, etc and not have to deal with the issue. I’d discussed my finances with him as he was concerned about my situation and without me asking, either directly or indirectly, handed me enough cash to pay off my credit card in one fell swoop.
Yeah. My response exactly. I took said cash straight to the bank and payed off my credit card the next day. You can imagine what a great relief it was to be rid of the burden that had been pressing down on me for so long. I also took the precaution of changing all my payment details to my debit card so all my future Amazon, Etsy purchases etc. would come directly out of my bank account and prevent me from simply building up another unsustainable credit card debt. I’m happy to say that so far I haven’t used my credit card at all, and don’t intend to unless forced to by an emergency.
Not to go into details, but the sum in question was a four figured one, so the idea that I would trouser $150 rather than take my then girlfriend out to dinner for our anniversary is outrageously risible, see “Don’t Let Me Be Understood” for background. I will admit to being humbled by my Dad’s action. I don’t like the fact that I earn so little and that I have to juggle to make ends meet, that I can’t pay my way as much as I’d like and that as a fully grown adult I have to depend on my father to bail me out. Like I don’t have enough inadequacy issues as it is.
Don’t misunderstand me. My Dad made no big deal of the issue, because as far as he’s concerned, that’s what you do for your kids: you help them out whenever they need it. Being a parent is a lifelong commitment, as I’m learning on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean I’m flush with cash, but it does mean that I have a little more wiggle room when it comes to daily finances. I won’t be splurging on luxuries any time soon, but I may be able to treat myself to the occasional grocery purchase above and beyond the bare necessities.