Can I Borrow Some Money, Son?

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

My mom did a lot of things wrong, but the one that make me sad most often is that she’d borrow money from us kids. Of course, she’d never pay it back. Kids with money is a waste when there are drugs to buy.

Now, not having money as a young person isn’t the end of the world. I didn’t have a need for money, per se. I’m not bemoaning being poor, or being broke even. It comes down to a matter of trust. For the first 15 years of my life, I trusted my mom, no matter what. It didn’t matter how many times she let me down. I just knew she was doing her best.

I can remember her “borrowing” money from me at pretty much every age. I never said no. I never hesitated. I loved my mom, and I wanted her to be happy. She asked to borrow money, and I gave it to her. That’s all there was to it.

Then our lives changed. Our lives changed a lot when we moved to Arkansas when I was 12. We couldn’t just go to Grandma’s, and we didn’t see our various aunts and uncles. We didn’t know our neighbors (which there were few of in the boonies). Getting money didn’t happen casually.

I worked for this rancher for a couple of weeks, to make some spending money for the Tontitown Grape Festival. It wasn’t a big deal, cleaning cow hoofs and mucking stalls. I earned like fifty bucks, which was great for a kid too young for a job.

My mom found out that I was sitting on this money a week before the Festival. She casually asked me if she could borrow it to pay the water bill. She’d pay it back on payday, and take me up to the Festival, too. I thought this was a great deal, and I made it.

Not only did she not pay me back, she made me call my friends, and tell them I couldn’t go because I was sick. She stole from me. She made me lie to my friends so their parents wouldn’t know what a bitch she had been. I was out $50, and I didn’t get to go to the Festival with my friends.

[Edit: I guess some of this wasn’t clear, so adding in some details hours later:

  • She didn’t return the money because she couldn’t be bothered, not because  we were poor.
  • She had to borrow the money because she’d spent the money for the bills on drugs and alcohol.
  • She sometimes borrowed money so she could get gas to go spend time with bad people, and neglect her children, sometimes for weeks.
  • This isn’t about a kid helping their family out. This is about my mother wantonly abusing her children financially, a trend that leaked into our adulthoods, too.

End edit.]

To this day, it makes me sad to pay the water bill. I love festivals, and I loathe “loans”.

My father, in his entire life, made good on a single IOU. He arranged for a friend of his to do a tattoo on my chest, rather than pay for it, which he’d promised to do. But I got the tattoo, and (thanks to the nature of tattoos) I’ll never forget it. But he failed on this subject many times, too.

Never borrow money from your kids. Let them exist outside your problems, don’t bring them in. No exceptions. Being an adult is your job. Let them buy some freaking LEGOs and be happy.

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  1. It can be a let-down (mildly said in some cases) to lend out money and not receive repayment.

    However, the issue in the situations you presented are not matters of borrowing and lending or even from whom such borrowing occurs; the issue is one of integrity and honesty. I myself do not have kids, but regardless of the lender (be it family or friends), the most important aspect of interpersonal relationships of any sort is honesty. I like to imagine (and it is admittedly so easy to do when I am speaking in terms of pure fantasy) that if I had children I might be forthright enough with them to say in such a situation, “I realize you worked hard for that money, and I respect that. [I did not plan well], and the family needs more money for the water bill. I get paid at the end of this week, and I would like to pay you back, but I honestly don’t know if I will. Still, may I borrow that $50?” Dreams, dreams, I know. It’s all rather idealized, but I’ve always been a big dreamer.

    Being the lender, though, a lesson I have taken from many an ill-lent loan is not to lend out money that I cannot afford to lose.

    It’s sweet that you were so willing to help your family, and it is sad that this willingness to help was not met with forthrightness, that your good attitude ultimately put you in a situation wherein your own mother asked you to lie for a less-than-valiant reason. Personally, I think children should help their families as you did, but ultimately, I think it would be best to leave the choice up to the child sans deception.

    It’s unfortunate how water bills and loans have been anchored with negative memories. What resources can you draw from this to further you as a person?

    • OMG Hi! Long time no talk. honesty would have made all the difference. 100% of the difference. I’d happily help, if it were just helping. She spent the money she didn’t return on booze and drugs. Maybe I should update the post, if I wasn’t clear. She took advantage of us, not because she had to, but because it was convenient to her. Yep, definitely will update the post.

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