My teenage daughter the other day: “Dad, just out of curiosity, how long is a check typically good for?”
I groan. “How old is it?”
“Ummmm, like, over a year.”
“What?!? How much is it for?”
“Thirty bucks, it’s no big deal,” she says.
No big deal? Who is this daughter of mine? When I was 16, $30 was definitely a big deal. It still is.
Payroll and government checks usually have a “deposit by” date imprinted on them, but I wasn’t sure about a personal babysitting check. I did a quick googling and found that these generally expire after 6 months.
Nora eavesdropping from the next room: “You know Squirrel Pants, you could always rip up the check and walk over to Mrs. Sutton and explain what happened and see if she’ll write you a new one.” (Yes, this is verbatim. And yes, Squirrel Pants is a term of endearment.)
Nora is old school. In person is better than on the phone, which is better than email, which is better than texting. All trumped by a personal note, depending on the circumstance.
“Sounds risky,” I reply. “Let me try to deposit it using my Bank of America app. If that doesn’t work, then take Mom’s route.”
Nora’s countenance turns sour and I start to understand that her Mrs. Sutton suggestion wasn’t an old-school reflex, but rather what she saw as a “character-building opportunity.” Pippa would realize that there are consequences for not following through, and that an out-of-her-comfort-zone face-to-face encounter with her occasional employer would be good for her, even if it didn’t net $30. Or perhaps especially if it didn’t.
But that was all lost now, as each of us takes great pains to not overtly contradict the other in front of the kids. Since Nora’s comment was only a suggestion, I had technically averted this sin.
Pippa has her own bank account at a credit union, but she hasn’t set up mobile banking yet. Heck, she hasn’t even set up her phone’s voicemail greeting, and she’s had the device for almost a year. (Probably just as well – the presence of a voicemail greeting implies that the phone’s owner will listen to any incoming messages and actually reply to them.)
So whenever Pippa or her younger brother Grey get a check for their birthday, or from a babysitting/lawn-mowing gig, they’ll sign it over to me and I’ll give them cash in return. Their own personal cash-spewing ADM – Automated Dad Machine. I have to run to the ATM a little more frequently, but I don’t mind.
The difference this time: No one-for-one trade. “If it clears, I’ll give you the money,” I told Pippa, staying very non-committal.
I do the deposit on my phone, then check the next day: “Pending.”
A day later, another check-in: “Pending”
“I don’t know Pippa,” I say, “they might be on to you. You might have to visit Mrs. Sutton afterall.” Pippa’s body does a barely-perceptible shudder. She likes Mrs. Sutton, but as a reserved kid, she tries to keep all conversations with acquaintance adults to an absolute minimum. Although Pippa is somewhat money motivated, I’m not sure $30 would be enough to trigger her ‘absolute minimum’ threshold.
“Check again tomorrow Dad. Today’s Sunday and aren’t banks closed on the Sabbath?”
Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure. I mean, I know the brick-and-mortar ones are, but I wasn’t sure if electronic transmissions honored God’s fourth commandment as well.
I checked on Monday, and couldn’t believe my eyes – “Pending” had changed to “Deposited.” Whoa, miracles do happen.
I pull out my small wad of cash and peel off $30 and hand it to Pippa, who sports a triumphant look.
Perhaps Nora was right – perhaps I inadvertently made things too easy for Pippa and leap-frogged a learning opportunity.
I won’t make that mistake again. The next time she presents the Automated Dad Machine with a really old check, my rollers will spit it right back out at her. She’ll be confused by the “Machine’s” inconsistent treatment, but I’ll feel better and more useful as a Dad.