Are you an ATM parent? Am I an ATM parent?
I remember the first time I saw my father use an ATM or automated teller machine. I can still remember the name of the bank my parents used and picture the whole ATM setup in my mind – right down to the now-ancient looking digital numbers on the screen. I was quite inquisitive about how a machine could spit out cash. I mean, how much cash must have been in that metal and plastic box? Or did it print the money on the spot? Was there a tube leading from the bank vault that kept the ATM loaded with cash? Why was there a $200 withdrawal limit? Why were ATM bills so crisp? What if I watched closely and figured out my dad’s pin number?
I remember, though, that my father was careful to explain to me that this was not just money from a machine, but real money that came out of his bank account. No one had really ever heard of a credit card at this time, so the ATM was a pretty big deal in the cash or check society of that day. The other vivid memory that I have from this time period was paying for gas with a $10 bill and developing the skill to make the pump stop exactly on $10.00, so that you would not get a penny in change or have to search through the car for an extra nickel or dime. But I digress. (Boy, I sound old sometimes, don’t I?)
Even though my father used the ATM from time to time, he was most definitely not an ATM parent – at least when I was at home. By the time my younger brothers and sisters were older, my parents were earning a little more money and probably saving more, since I was not there to eat everything in the house. They were probably most generous in regards to my baby sister whose wedding is coming up in a month. She is 13 years my junior and let’s just say that if money was love, my parents loved her more. . . or did they? hmmm . . .
What is an ATM Parent?
From the context, I was pretty sure that I knew what an ATM parent meant, but let me develop and define this term a little bit. I am making assumptions and speaking in generalities, this is not meant to be completely literal in every part. The truth is probably that many of us will identify with some parts of this list more than others.
If the shoe fits, wear it:
ATM parents allow $5’s, $10’s, $20’s and $50’s to flow freely without accountability.
Children of ATM parents often know their Christmas and birthday presents in advance. The prospective toy is always something fantastic and ATM children love to proclaim it loudly at the lunch table or on the bus. There are times when I wonder if the future gift is something that the parent promised to the child in order to get him to behave.
ATM parents want to make everything in life as fair as possible for their children.
ATM children grow up thinking that tanning, facials, designer jeans, summer camp and expensive basketball shoes are not luxuries.
ATM parents are not necessarily rich, but most seem to struggle financially – whether or not they make $30K or $250K annually.
ATM children do have piggy banks, but they are empty.
ATM parents rarely say no, but they often make a counter-offer.
ATM children know that money does not grow on trees, however, it does bloom whenever they tug on a parent’s sleeve.
ATM parents feed the instant gratification habit rather than delayed gratification.
ATM children believe that saving up for something means telling their parents what they want a month in advance.
Does your child know that if ATM father says no, that ATM mother might be willing to contribute?
ATM children carry credit cards for which they never see the statement.
ATM parents assume that the automated teller machine should also pay for college and then room and board after college.
Can you add to the list? Am I raising children who have ATM tendencies? I hope not. Are you raising ATM children or – gasp!- Credit Card kids?!
By the way – there is absolutely nothing wrong with an ATM grandparent.
Photo by: frankh