By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | March 14, 2013
Several years ago, I was faced with an upsetting dilemma when Chelsey* was in the fifth grade. Some of her grades were mediocre and my husband wanted better grades so he made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. He told her he would give her $10 for every A she brought home on the next report card.
Chelsey applied herself for the next few weeks bringing her books home every day, completing assignments and doing extra work. She already wanted good grades and getting $10 for each A was great but what she really wanted was to make her dad proud of her— he would be so happy!
At the end of the marking period Chelsey was beaming— she got three As! The other grades had improved and I told her she should be proud of how hard she worked. Chelsey was excitedly waiting for her dad to get home so he could see her report card.
Chelsey’s dad arrived home while I was outside cooking on the grill. I could hear the two of them at the kitchen table talking and then voices were raised; something was wrong.
“What’s the matter, Chelsey?” I asked.
“I got gypped!” she said surprised.
I came inside to see what happened. My husband said he doesn’t pay for Gym and English grades, that only academic courses like Math, Science and Social Studies deserved ten dollars each.
Chelsey and I looked at each other not believing what we heard. He was backing out of his deal— $10 for every A she earned. I told him it wasn’t fair; that he was changing the rules after the marking period was over. What I said did not matter; as an engineer himself, he attached no value to any class that was not Math, Science or Social Studies.
Puzzled? I was beyond puzzled. I could tell myself that he was acting that way because he grew up in abject poverty in another country and without a father but was not convinced. I could see him changing his mind and only wanting to pay for the ‘academic’ grades but you can not go back on your word, especially to your own child.
Explaining the situation to my daughter was not easy. I told Chelsey that nobody can control the actions of another; we can only control our own behavior and how we respond to a situation. No, her father was not going to give her three ten-dollar bills for her three As. I told her as upset as we were, I had come up with a solution.
“Credit cards fix everything!” We went shopping! Chelsey made out like a bandit and while it was not resolved the way I would have wanted, at least I felt better.
There were no perfect options. Chelsey’s dad had hurt his credibility as a father, something he could not understand or repair. How would this affect their relationship when she was a teenager? Did she see him as someone she could depend on? Did she know he would be there for her when she might need him? My going against his wishes had hurt our relationship too and put me in between him and our children; something nobody wanted. I kept his word that day, something I was ready to do again if need be.
Mister Ramirez is still Chelsey’s dad and my husband of thirty-two years. How would you have handled this situation? What would you have done differently? I would love to hear from you.
*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.
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