In Which My Teenaged Daughter Burns Me

I am driving. My three children are in the car with me, my teenager beside me, my younger children in the backseat. It is dusk, perhaps later, and we are coming home from the grocery store. I am not cranky – I wouldn’t describe myself as cranky, anyway – but my teenager has just spent five dollars on two pencils at the grocery store.

She’s old enough to send into the store by herself with some money, and she’d gotten the posterboard we’d made the trip for, a gallon of milk, and these two pencils. “They’re good pencils Dad!” she’d said, after handing me the receipt and an amount of change that seemed so light that I looked at the receipt to figure out what I had just had my money spent on. “$4.99 for goddamned pencils?” I freaked out like a dad does, because I am a stereotype. “No, they were $3.99 with the discount!” my daughter says, technically correct, except that she had paid $4.99, because she hadn’t punched my phone number into the “Do you have a Kroger Club membership?” questionnaire at the checkout.

I rant and rave for a while longer about how no two pencils on earth can possibly be worth $4.99. Then there is silence. And then:

“I want to tell scary stories,” says my son, from the back.

“I’ll tell you a scary story,” I say. “Once, there was a young man, whose life was full of future, but then he had three children, and they drained the life from his soul!”

“That’s about you!” protests my son. “That’s not scary.”

“I’ve got a story,” says my teenager daughter. “Once, there was a young man, whose life was full of future, and he chose to do all of that stuff with mom, and now he’s got three kids, and get over it!”

So now I’m out $4.99 and I’ve been badly burned. Or served? Maybe the kids still say served? Jesus I’m old.

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17 thoughts on “In Which My Teenaged Daughter Burns Me

  1. I suppose it would be churlish to point out that a good mechanical pencil can go for about 15 dollars.
    I bought my first in 1981 on the first day of work in an architectural office.

    I still use it every weekend for my artwork, and would like to be buried with it.


  2. Recently, my two sons — aged 7-months and 2.5 years — teamed up to have a laugh at my expense. I reached out to give the younger one a high five. He looked at me, looked at his brother, looked at me, looked at his brother and laughed… leaving me hanging. The older one, who is speech delayed and still communicates largely through gestures, pointed at the baby, pointed at me, pointed at my outstretched hand, looked at his brother, and joined in the laughter.

    I, too, felt burned. But, because they are wee little beasties, their punishment was dressing like a pair of assholes for school the next day. You might think I’m kidding. I’m not. At all. If anyone can show me how to paste a picture into a comment, I’ll show the evidence.


  3. I admit to a certain amount of sympathy for your daughter. My thing was pens, rather than pencils, and beginning as a teenager a modest but steady portion of my allowance and part-time earnings went into those. Although the notion of spending Mom and Dad’s money directly on a pen, without having asked permission first, wouldn’t have crossed my mind.


    • I should add this detail – my daughter had asked for permission to buy pencils, which I had granted. I had simply not been alerted to the price of said pencils before purchase. Had I known, I still would have grumbled about it – I’m a dad, and grumbling is my responsibility – but having paid as much as I did is too much!


      • A pencil can be worth the money. I have two pencils on my desk. One is an old Pentel 0.5mm that I only use for tiny printing on my calendar. The other is a beat-up, scruffy Autopoint 0.9mm I’ve had since my father gave it to me when I was a teenager (he said he no longer used it). Autopoint is best known for making millions of these drab, almost indestructible pencils for the US government and giant corporations like the old AT&T. You can buy one that’s essentially identical from Autopoint today — for $9.95. That’s not a bad price for a pencil you intend to still be using in 40 years…


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