The key to a teen’s heart is a $5 bill

Lori C linch

Are We There Yet?

Although my children have been known to make me crazy, I kind of like having them around.

Suffice it to say, I’d never stoop to a level where I’d offer them cash compensation to leave the house. I’m like a referee at a boxing match — they give me a purpose.

Yet every time my eldest son departs, it costs me upward of five bucks. We take a hit to the pocketbook whether that kid is going to school, a church function or a backyard bash up the neighbor’s alley.

Although pizza runs a close second, he loves money more than anything. Currency is like oxygen to that child. Waving money in his face is like passing smelling salts under the nose of a dazed boxer.

Just the other day, I caught him digging in my wallet — a lesser woman would have spun on her heel and blown a gasket.

“What are you doing?” I shrieked.

“Dad said I could get five bucks.” (Isn’t that just like a man?)

“And what, pray tell, do you need five bucks for?”

“Some of the guys are getting together at Baxter’s tonight for PlayStation.”

“Why would you need five bucks for that?”

“I have to pay Kramer back for the punches that I used on his lunch tickets.”

“But I gave you money for a lunch ticket.”

“Yea, but I gave that money to Lewis.”

“Then Lewis should pay you back.”

“Well, he would except that I ran up minutes on his cell phone. Lewis has had a cell phone for six months. Why can’t I have a cell phone?”

“Because we’re still trying to pay off the debt you’ve owed to Johnson since the third grade.” (That’s what you get when your kid borrows from a mathematical genius; the interest alone will kill ya.)

“Well, Charlie’s cavities cost $250. Since my hygiene is stellar, don’t you feel I deserve adequate compensation?”

The kid does have a brilliant mind.

His needing money has become second nature. I’ve taken to keeping five-dollar bills in my pockets at all times, passing them out like an ATM machine every time he leaves my side.

Recently, however, I experienced one of those joyful parenting moments when it seemed that he genuinely needed me. His team had just finished up with the state championship for the football season. I was standing outside the stadium when he called me on Lewis’ cell phone. “Mom?” I heard him ask desperately.

“Yes, Honey, where are you?”

“The whole team is outside the locker room and all of the other parents are here.”

“All of the parents?” I asked as if I’d just taken a blow to the gut.

“Everyone that cares.”

“Oh my goodness, shall I come and be with you?”

“Gosh, Mom, that’d be really nice,” he said, and the last part of his statement rang out in my ears and inflicted guilt upon my very soul.

“I’ll be right there!” I exclaimed loudly. I dropped my blanket, my blow horn and my big fat “No. 1” blow-up finger and ran like the wind.

“What kind of mother,” I asked myself as I pushed through the crowd, “wouldn’t be there for her child?”

When I arrived at the locker room, parents swarmed me. “Lori, where have you been?” asked an individual as I passed. “Vernon has been looking for you!” exclaimed another with the proverbial, “tsk tsk.”

Finally, I could see his sweet face over the mass of people. He was searching for me, and I swear I saw a look of desperation in his eyes. “Vernon!” I exclaimed, “I’m over here, Honey. It is I, your mother!”

I pushed my way through until, alas, I was at his side. My heart ached as I threw my arms around him. I was out of breath and weak in the knees. “You needed me, didn’t you, Honey? I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. But I’m here now, and that’s all that matters.”

“Great,” he replied as he smacked me on the back. “I thought you’d never get here. Some of us are going out for pizza.”

“Oh, did you want me to come along?”

“Gosh no, Mom!” he practically screamed, indicating that if I dared to show up at any post-game event, he might self-destruct with the humiliation of it all. “But I’m running a bit thin in the wallet. Could you hit me with a ten-spot?”

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” Her e-mail address is lclinch@charter.net.