Two weeks ago one of my fellow contributors to Life Goes Strong poked the hornet nest with a blog titled "Why You Should NOT Lend Money To Your Kids." A flurry of comments ensued, mostly expressing the "shirt off back" philosophy. Based on my own experience, I have to cast my vote not with my colleague but with her crowd of critics. Because here's what happened to me.
Mom and Dad Ride to the Rescue
Some years ago – when both my husband Stephan and I were old enough to know better – we got way behind on our taxes. During the year in question, Stephan doubled his freelance income. While he dutifully filed his quarterly estimated taxes, the amount he paid was only half of what we owed. Meantime, I freelanced for six months between jobs and because the time was so short, didn't pay estimated taxes at all. Bingo: a $20,000 tax bill.
I still remember receiving the call in London, where I'd traveled on business, from my husband who always e-mails, never calls. "I hate to tell you this while you're away," he said, "But we've got to fix this fast." April 15 was days away, and no way did we have $20,000. Yikes.
Into this calamity rode my mother and father to the rescue. They let us borrow against a CD they held. It was an instantly available, low-interest loan. Stephan and I lived like paupers for a year and paid back every penny. At the time I was grateful, but it is only now that I have a grown child myself that I truly understand my parents' immediate and unquestioning impulse to save us.
Both a Borrower and a Lender Be
Mom and Dad didn't know that the story would end happily in a year with the debt all paid up. They were the ultimate conservatives in matters of money. I could only imagine the conversations that must have gone on in their Florida condominium concerning how Stephan and I could possibly have spent all that extra income without even noticing, why we didn't have an emergency fund. Trusting us to pay the money back must have looked like a bet the most crazed gambler wouldn't take.
But lend to us they did. I think it was an instinct, not a decision, like a mama lion protecting her cubs. Isn't that how we want to treat our kids? Of course, there are exceptions: say, if your child is in the grip of an addiction or in trouble with the law. But for the main, isn't this what parents do: giving time, money, heart, love? Give until it hurts. And then some.
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