Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I probably shouldn't admit it, but sometimes I read other people's Slices about family dinners and graduations and vacations with just a tinge of jealousy. My boys and I rarely have those times.

Instead, ours has been a long and bumpy road, marked by many, many detours.

"They let me use my debit card, even when I don't have money," announces my son about a week ago.

"They charge you for that, every time you use it."

"No they don't," he insists.

"Yes they do," I say, "it's called an overdraft."

I soon discover that my son has run up almost three hundred dollars in overdrafts. Eight dollar Taco Bell meals have 34 dollar overdraft charges.

He is surprised and angry. Defensive. Not at the bank, but at me.

I straighten out the situation. He promises never to do it again.

Two weeks later, he is $114 dollars in the hole again. I tell him that I am not fixing it. And he will have to figure something out.

He swears at me and hangs up, furious.

I do not call.

For more than a week, I do not hear from him. I mail a grocery card and a check for weekly living expenses, like laundry. I cannot put it in the bank, because it will be sucked up by the overdraft charges. I do not know how he will cash the check.

Finally, on Monday night he calls.

"I fixed it," he says.

"Really? How?" He has been looking for a job, and I am hoping he has been successful.

"I sold my Xbox."

The Xbox was a Christmas present. Both of my boys wanted the new Xbox. They were ridiculously expensive and  I couldn't afford them so they asked my mom and my sisters to give them gift cards. They combined all of the money and bought Xboxes.

"Really? To a teammate?"

No, no one has any money and that would have taken way too long. I just sold it back to Gamestop. They gave me $200."

My heart sinks. The Xbox cost three times that. It was only six months old. Game Stop probably sold it for $500.

But I stop myself from saying that.

He had a problem. he solved it. And for us, that has to be enough.

Ours is a bumpy road.

And the celebrations are small.

Today I celebrate small successes on bumpy roads.

Because that is what we have in our family.


Bernadette said...

Oh Carol, you never know what goes on behind anyone's front door. I think your family is more common than you think. Raising children doesn't get any easier, does it? But the end result of this problem was a good lesson for your son in taking responsibility for his actions. You are right to celebrate yourself for giving him the opportunity to learn this lesson

Chris said...

I so admire your family - you are raising problem solvers. Your son took the lead and gave up a precious item. That's a really big deal!

Tabatha said...

I'm sure he was disappointed to learn that his debit card wasn't full of free money! What happened sounds like getting mad at the messenger of bad tidings -- a bummer for you...

I'll bet the lesson about overdrafts is something he will remember. You are doing a great job!

elsie said...

It is so hard to step back and allow our children to solve their own problems. You did it right. Stay strong!

Linda B said...

I'm glad you stood firm. I remember a few times when I would get a phone call, & we would say "no", or "that won't work" & get a hang-up, but it finally worked out. Parents who push their kids to solve problems, even when we don't agree with the way it was done are great. Thinking of you on that bumpy road, Carol. Being a parent is hard work.

Tara said...

This story sounded so familiar, Carol. Bernadette is right, you know, all kinds of things go on behind front doors.

Dana Murphy said...

I completely agree with Bernadette - you never know what goes on behind closed doors. It's not all sunshine and rainbows at my house either, trust me! I admire the restraint you showed by not jumping in to solve the problem... a wonderful life lesson! And I admire the risk and honesty you have in writing this Slice!

Lisa Keeler said...

Your post is brave and honest and I admire it and you. And you are right, life can be so bumpy. You are telling a story not unlike ones that many of us have, we just haven't written them yet. Thank you.

Jaana said...

Some families might not have money issues, but there are many other things happening behind closed doors. Stay strong!

Michelle said...

We all live and learn and in our own ways. Some just learn the really hard way. Sorry for all the bumps and bruises. Hang on! Parenting is quite a ride!

Elisabeth said...

One of my sons wants us to solve all of his problems; the other has, according to himself, never had a problem in his life and DEFINITELY never wanted help for a problem. The stakes are so low for my kids right now, and I hate to think about what happens with their decision-making and problem-solving as they get older and the stakes get higher. My kids were adopted at ages 6 and 9, and I am always so aware of that clock ticking: we just don't have that much time with them, and there is so much for them to learn! Thanks for sharing this story!

laurasalas said...

Carol, I can *so* relate. I have a child with a mood disorder, and our family life for about 18 years was nothing BUT bumps and bruises (nasty, moody, aggressive slices of life--whoopee). She has learned many hard lessons, but we're really proud of how much progress she's made in the past couple of years. We tend to share the good because we don't want to gripe, but please know you're not alone in parenting struggles!

Karen said...

All too often I rush in to solve the problem with my children, and then no one learns from that experience. As hard as it was, good for you for staying the course and not giving in to his anger.
I wonder if the reason you don't read about others' bumpy roads is that we are not brave enough to show the warts when we write. I have always admired that about you. It makes your writing honest and gives it great voice.

Carol Varsalona said...

Carol, I ardently read your blog post realizing that you took a risk exposing your feelings about family life. I am sure that many people can relate to your story about problems parents face but boldy speaking out about them showed great strength of character. Thank you for your courage and thoughtful writing.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carol, as Elsie said, it's so hard to let our kids solve their own problems.

It's also hard to be honest about hard times.

Thank you for being honest for all of us.