I’m raising a blackmailer. Oops

This one is for “Narf,” from The Road to Serenity, who asked for something funny. And for  B., who thinks he needs to review all my future NDAs, because… well, read on…


First, this: the children find out how utterly broke I am:

Flora: Mom? How much money do you have in your bank account?

I scrunch up my forehead, pull up the date, calculate the total number of bills deducted from my not-very-impressive balance as of today, and respond…

Jane: About $50.

Flora: OMFG! I have more than that in my Three Jars!

(Three Jars, by the way, is a very brilliant way of managing your children’s money without actually giving them real money. What I mean is—Aunt August sends a check for $16.66* for their birthday, and it’s in your name… you deposit it, of course, in your bank account, and then do you transfer it to their bank account? Of course not. At least I never do. I spend it, on, you know—food. Visa bills. Until Three Jars. Now, I “deposit” that amount into their account. It’s virtual money: I don’t put any real money in there. It’s just a record. Then, when we’re at a store, and Flora wants another Rainbow Loom, and wants to pay for it with her money—I pay for it with my visa… and deduct the money from her Three Jars account. Brilliant. Check it out.)**

Flora is very, very clever—I may have mentioned this before, how clever my girl is?—and my apparent indigence is causing her some concern. She’s following the matter to the obvious conclusion.

Flora: Mom? So I have more than $300 in my Three Jars. If I ask you for that money, where is it going to come from?

Here’s the part where I teach my children a terrible life lesson.

Jane: I would write you a cheque on my Line of Credit.

… and here’s the part where they learn the paradox of a freelance writer’s life:

Flora: Mom? Why do you have so little money when you’ve just worked so much?

Jane: Because I haven’t been paid yet.

… and here comes the part where I realize my children learn all sorts of financial lessons I don’t realize I teach them…

Cinder: Because Mom’s a freelance, Flora, and that means clients don’t pay her for weeks and weeks and sometimes months after she does the work.

Flora is outraged.

Flora: Well, that really sucks!

Me, you know, I haven’t had a biweekly, predictable paycheque since Y2K, so I rather take it in stride. Most of them pay. Eventually. In the meantime, there’s my treasured line of credit…

And here comes the part where… well, just listen:

Cinder: Hey, Mom? That client you wouldn’t tell us anything about, the one that you did that top secret project for—you know, the one that you said if you told us about, they’d send ninja assassins to Calgary to kill us and also everyone we talked to about it?

(Sometimes, I get REALLY interesting jobs. They come with these NDAs…)

Jane: Um, yeah?

Cinder: Have they paid you yet?

Jane: Um, no.

Cinder: So… why don’t you call them and say, “Pay me now, or I’m going to put your top secret project on Facebook?”

I crane around in the front seat of the car—these conversations almost often take place in the car—and stare at my son-the-future-blackmailer. Who 1) totally understands the power of social media and 2) knows that privacy in our current world is only a delusion…

… and I wonder exactly where I went wrong on the path of shaping his moral make-up…

… and then Flora—have I mentioned how very, very clever she is?—sets him straight:

Flora: But Cinder. Maybe they’d pay her this time—but then, she’d never, ever get another top-secret-don’t-tell-anyone-about-this-or-we-will-send-ninja-assasins-to-kill-you-and-everyone-you-might-have-talked-to job.

Cinder: But she’d get paid.

Flora: But she’d never get hired to do anything top secret again.

Silence falls. I do some mental arithmetic on how much room there is left on my line of credit, and decide plenty enough that I don’t need to panic. Yet. Flora, I suspect, is wondering if she should call in all her Three Jars savings now, before the line of credit is maxed. Cinder, I’m a little worried, might be thinking whether he should take the financial health of the family into his own blackmailing hands—and I make a mental note to change all my laptop and file passwords again. Just in case. Not that I doubt his integrity… just his, you know… judgement.  I turn again to look at him. His look is pensive rather than cunning—more like he’s feeling pity for my lack of ruthlessness rather than planning the demise of my professional reputation by threatening my client in my name.

I relax. Peek over at Ender, who was listening to but not following the conversation, but now has his brow furrowed in concentration. I love to watch him think: I see him chasing a thought… wrestling it… figuring out how to articulate it. What did he take away from all that? What did he glean, process?

And, here it comes.

Ender: Mom?

Jane: Yes, my darling?

Ender: Penis!

The four-year-old has spoken.



Raising a blackmailer

*You remember Aunt Augusta? She’s not real—she’s a metaphor for every relative-aquaintance-friend-of-the-family-well-meaning-stranger-at-the-bus-stop-nosy-neighbour who has an opinion about how I live my life/raise my children and misses no opportunity to tell me I’m doing it wrong. I hope you have an Aunt Augusta or two in your life: there is no better barometer by which to measure your parenting. Aunt Augusta thinks you suck? Awesome. You’re doing something right.

**Not a sponsored post. I don’t do that. I’m a real user of the service and a real fan.

Photo: My blackmailer-in-training practicing breaking secret codes…

29 thoughts on “I’m raising a blackmailer. Oops

  1. I am still laughing. Put Ender and Cinder together and you have Isaiah. A blackmailing potty mouth!
    I am so very sure that if Isaiah even knew I had a stealth job it would be world news by 8pm.

  2. Ender has it…”PENIS” when yelled loud enough will distract even the most avid pursuer who is most determinedly navigating in your direction. If that kid whose mum was buff as gutz had yelled “PENIS” loudly the terminator would have backed away, hands in the air protesting his innocence. Ender is the wisest of them all. Give him the contents of your bank account to do with as he will. He will one day choose your nursing home…

    Glad I got a mention here. I am dead bloody chuffed to say the least. I have this strange admiration for you for some unknown reason. Maybe it’s the desperation of the ages, maybe it’s the fact that we have 3 kids each and although mine are off bumbling around in the world on their own wreaking their own peculiar form of chaos (I taught them well young padowan), they stick to your heart and soul no matter where they go and those blackmailing tendencies (I have a female version of Cinder) are alarmingly nestled in at least one of them.

    Outing ninja’s isn’t wise. I have seem all of the Quentin Tarantino (I TOTALLY didn’t just look up how to spell that) movies…I know the ninja moves. I know that when they get pissed they will hunt you like a duck. Nuff said on that one lest I get put on the ninja hitlist simply by being an associate

    I would like to share a little ditty with you now. It comes from a now defunct (I think…sorry Tim if you are still labouring on in RSL clubs) Aussie band and for “Friends” insert “kids” and you are there! Glad to see you are living on the edge of madness. From madness comes great wisdom. Just don’t ask me about mine…there might be ninja’s…”SHHHH!”

    Thank me later for the earworm 😉

  3. Pingback: Quote This: Kurt Vonnegut on what’s wrong with the world | Undogmatic Unschoolers

Made you think? Made you laugh? Made you scream? Tell me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.