Remember when children were cheap?

It only seems like eight million dollars ago that my husband and I admired our eldest as he rode his cheap little Hot Wheel down the walk. Vernon was so small back then, so innocent, so easy to please, and so gosh darned inexpensive.

Well, pass the time and check the bank statements, Honey, cuz those days are gone. Nowadays it costs us a small fortune every time the kid walks in the door and it costs even more money to have him leave. Everything he does in between coming and going pertains to money, relates to expenses or is down right costly.

Rather than view his parents as the people who sustain him with our life-giving forces, he sees us as an institution that allows him to walk in and make cash withdrawals at any time of any given day. I’m not even sure that he has an account with us. Yet, I know that he sees me as his own personal ATM because he tried to enter a pin number on my forehead last night.

To think we thought that we had put the big expenses behind us once he was out of diapers and formula.

What was once a delightful child that would wave at me from third base is now a 6’ tall money pit who costs more to maintain than a ‘57 Chevy with a rusted out chassis. Instead of happy comments and witty replies, our child has taken to responding to every inquiry with, "I need some money."

"What, no greeting?" I asked as he came in the other night and ambled over to the fridge.

"Oh, yeah," he responded, indicating that he was grateful for the reminder. Naturally, I assumed he’d remembered that he’d not extended an obligatory hello. But rather than address me with a happy greeting he simply said, "I need some money."

No matter the day, no matter the hour, any time I ask him, "Are you hungry," "How’s your hair?" or the ever-loving, "Did you remember to pick your brother up from baseball practice?" he’ll say, "Oh, that reminds me, I need some money."

It’s gotten so that we can’t afford to ask him how his day went.

Any fool with a fraction of a brain would suggest that the kid get a job. And although my husband and I may not be known for our brilliance, we do have a clue. We’ve required that he remain employed and requested that he finance his own extravagances. But demanding that he spend his own money on his own expenses only caused him to get more creative.

"Well," he explained to us the other night with visual aids including pie graphs and flow charts, "Lawrence’s cavities cost $250. Since my hygiene is stellar, don’t you feel I deserve adequate compensation? And let’s take a minute to look over the statistics that I’ve compiled, shall we? The data clearly shows that I’ve not only saved you people money with my good health and great hygiene but that I’ve saved you time and travel expenses by not making you drive me to the emergency room. While we’re on the subject of expensive kids – what, pray tell, did Huey’s appendectomy cost?"

I’ve become so conditioned to handing him money that I pass out $5 bills even when he doesn’t ask. In fact, the other night when he asked me to help him find his shoes, I asked him what size bills he preferred. And instead of inquiring as to what he would like for supper, I’ve taken to asking him how he would like his change.

As if that weren’t bad enough, he came in the other night and requested several dollars to take a date to a movie. Being a woman of sound mind and financial ruins, I flatly refused.

"Come on Mom," he said, "you can’t just cut me out of your life like this. "

"I’m not cutting you out of my life, I’m just telling you that you’ve got to learn the value of a dollar."

"Can’t you see how important this is to me? Surely there is something you could do to help? "

"Well, you could do what I do when I’m low on funds and the cash cow has been milked of its last quart. "

"What’s that?"

"I dump the vacuum bag and rummage the lint trap."

"How about if you rummage it for me?"

"How about not?"

"Come on Mom, take one for the team."

"But I don’t wanna play."

Before I knew it, we were emptying my wallet and I was trying to fish a quarter out of the lining of my purse. He walked away with my last penny and a smile.

Which reminds me, I need some money.