My father returned to Sydney for the Ashes and took the whole family out to dinner the other night – as in, he paid for all of us, naively telling us that he was going to BEFORE we had ordered from the menu.
My kids aren’t used to a free-for-all mentality when it comes to restaurant menus – expensive off-piste specials included. With an accountant for a father, there are family rules when we eat out, and Kurt and NC have been strictly brought up to ignore appetizers, starters and cocktails and take a shortcut to the mains. Even steak – unless it’s contaminated by Mad Cow Disease (hence on special) – must be overlooked in favor of more sustainably financial choices, such as burgers, pasta or fish n’chips.
They understand that dessert will be an ice cream from the Seven-Eleven on the way home, if they’re lucky.
Which was why I couldn’t help feeling a little betrayed by the open mouths and first-day-of-the-Target-sales-look on both their faces when my father told them they could pick anything. Indeed, he might have been speaking a foreign language to them.
‘What?’ spluttered Kurt in disbelief, his eyes searching mine, imploring me to confirm this dream come true. ‘Even… a starter?’ At which point I had to kick him under the table.
NC is rather more mercenary and the minute the idea of oysters was bandied about, her hand went up – a fair-weather vegetarian, my daughter somehow managed to justify her inclusion in the fish starter via an emergency consultation with Google. It turns out that oysters are sustainable, do not have a nervous system or a face… apparently…hence they are fair game.
Anyone would think my kids had been brought up on the poverty line from the ill-disguised delight on their faces when a side order of bread suddenly appeared on the table – it was like a miracle had occurred, like Christmas after Christmas, as each of them regressed back to being kids in a candy store with a penny in their hands. And although I had worried about how Kurt would fare with the evening – eating out not being his favorite pastime – I have never seen him adapt to a new situation as quickly.
And while I sat there pretending that cheese before dessert represents normal life in our household, I realized that my father’s generosity was a good lesson for my son – it was good for him to witness the pleasure to be gained from working hard. In his half-price Pierre Cardin trousers– two sizes too big, (but PC nonetheless), and one of Kurt’s first impulse buys from his hard-earned cash, he is learning the value of money quickly.
So I decided to ignore NC’s sneaky order of a Baileys at the end of the evening and the crass, all-you-can-eat-the-buffet-bar mentality of our family as a whole. Our behavior was not a sign of avarice, rather an appreciation and an extension of our kids education in the value of money – something that my son is slowly beginning to comprehend as he begins his working life, because impulsive, compulsive and with a worrying grasp of consequences, he has yet to have more than a cent left in his bank account 24 hours after payday, since he started to work.
Thank fuck, he is paid weekly.
This week, his father drags him into the next stage of
how boring it is to be an adult money management when he starts making him pay for his own travel expenses, while I will adding a pair of strong walking shoes and a new bike to his birthday present list.