Dads, don’t buy those ‘I’ll pay you back!’ promises

Published 9:31 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

This has been the best week of the year, something we don’t get to say often. Once a year the amazin’ blonde and I take our daughter Rach and the two grandbabies and fly out to Huntington Beach, California, to see our son, Malachi. We stay in a little condo that overlooks the Pacific.

This year it is particularly fitting that our trip will take us all the way to Father’s Day, and we will have the added blessing of gathering for worship at a little church in Orange County. It may be hard to look down the bench this Sunday and not think back to those growing-up years.

Parenthood, at its very best, is an imperfect science, and it teaches us that we are not all that the way we thought we were. That position now goes to our children. With children, you become both rich and poor. You grow rich in experience, love and blessings. You grow poor in winning arguments, especially in any type of financial negotiations. That process starts innocently enough. In fact, chances are you cannot even remember when it first got out of control. You just wake up one day and realize that we have no idea what we’re doing but will have to walk around pretending to the world that we do.

I had a flashback to such a time when I looked at my now 38-year-old son.

“Dad,” he said one day right out of the clear blue, “let me borrow $2. I’ll pay you back.” That was when he was about two.

Fifteen years — and 1,000 visits later — he came to me again. But I was ready for him:

“Dad, can I borrow $25? I’ll pay you back.”

“What do you mean you’ll pay me back?  How old are you, son?”

“You know how old I am.”

“That’s not the point. How old are you?”

“I’m 17 going on 18.”

“Seventeen going on 18. And how many times have you borrowed money from me for the past 17 going on 18 years?”

“I don’t know.”

“Take a wild guess.”

“I don’t know, Dad.”

“Jus’ take a swing at it.”

“I said I don’t know.”

“Well, let me do it for you.” I pulled out my little book in my back pocket and flipped through the pages.

“Son,” I said, “according to my records, you’ve borrowed $400, 917 over the past 17 going on 18 years.”

“No way,” he said.

“Do you want to see the book?”

“I don’t need to see the book. You haven’t even made four hundred thousand and whatever else you said the past 17 years.”

“That’s the point,” I exclaimed. “That’s the whole point. You’ve borrowed money I haven’t even made yet. Do you know how many times you’ve said, ‘Dad, I’ll pay you back.’?”

“How many?”

“According to my records,” I said as I watched my son roll his eyes, “you’ve said it 611 times. And do you know how many times you’ve actually paid me back?”






“Keep going.”


“You’re getting close. You’ve paid me back exactly zero times in those 17 going on 18 years.”

“So, Dad,” my son said, growing impatient, “are you going to let me borrow the $25?”

“Only if this time you promise to pay me back.”

“Dad, I promise. I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”

I gave him that strange look I use in times like these. “How are you gonna pay me back tomorrow if you don’t have any money?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said, “I’ll borrow it from Mom.”