Value of money changes when it’s yours

By Helena Rodriguez

My brother-in-law Manuel tried to ask me rather inconspicuously about my daughter the other day. “So what’s Laura been up to this summer?” he asked.
“Oh, I’ve been trying to keep her busy,” I responded and just as I was beginning to tell him about our summer routine I stopped short because I realized why he was asking me this.
Manuel had seen my Laura picking up trash along one of the city streets in Portales, donned in a fluorescent orange vest. No, my daughter is not a juvenile delinquent doing community service. She’s got a part-time job this summer with the city of Portales’ beautification program.
Youth pick up around town, paint, pull weeds and stuff like that. For their protection, they wear the orange vests so motorists will see them easily.
Now that my 14-year-old is a working woman, who I might add, will see the first fruits of her labor today, that raises the question of who exactly will be footing the bill for these little “must haves” that teenage girls have.
Before Laura was bringing home the bacon, she followed the same basic routine that teens have done since the cavemen times. She clubbed me over the head. No, not really. Actually, she resorted to much more peaceful means. However, I must say, they have tended to get rather pushy and near the point of demanding at times.
It would start off innocently, although, like Manuel, not very inconspicuously. “Mom, you get paid Friday right?”
Since the cavemen times, teens have had trouble learning algebra and understanding Shakespeare, but one thing they’ve been able to master is their parent’s pay schedule.
Laura would then make a simple, reasonable request, by teen standards I mean. “Mom, can I have a Louie Vaton purse?”
“We’ll see hita,” I respond. “By the way, how much do they cost?”
“About $175,” Laura responds.
I swallow hard and instantly take back my words, pointing out that I did not pinkie promise.
This is usually followed by some whining, sometimes a little foot stomping, a little more whining, and then resignation.
On less expensive items, many teens, including the one with my DNA whose name has already been mentioned, try to sneak things into the shopping cart. Laura’s used this little trick on me once or twice, but not three times I tell you. A mother has to put her foot down sometimes, especially when she doesn’t have the money to pay for it. Anyway, it works like this. We’ll be shopping at Wal-Mart and I just happen to be in one of my “No, no, because I said so” moods so Laura will get the hint and stop asking for stuff.
Well, a time or two, we’ve gotten to the checkout line and then I wondered why the purchase rings up higher than I estimated. Then I’ll notice a lip gloss or other cosmetic or two that I don’t remember putting in the shopping cart. One time, I didn’t even discover the items until we got home and thought the people at the store put them into our bag by accident, but then Laura fessed up.
This worked a time or two, but on one particular day, when I was grumpier and broker than usual, Laura tried to slip something past me, but I became aware of it and told the clerk to take it off. Laura was upset, but hey, I was the money lady.
One time Laura tried another trick. I always write shopping lists and so she pencils in her request at the bottom of the list. She thought she was being clever. One time she even penciled in at the bottom of my to-do list, “Take Laura to have her nails done.” It was a nice tactic, but it didn’t work.
Laura gets her first paycheck today, but you didn’t hear it here. Hey, I’m her mom. I need to know these kinds of things, but it’s not like I’m going to tell the whole town. And it’s not like I’m going to ask her to buy my lunch or anything like that. On second though, maybe that’s not a bad idea.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: