Talking To Your Kids About Blood Money
“The talk.” We all have to face it at some point. No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re never quite ready for that one conversation that every parent dreads: How to tell your kids that you made all your money selling defective weapons to a small South American rebel group, and then got the soldiers who injured themselves with your faulty product addicted to pain killers cut with heroin. And that you used the profit from that endeavor to open a strip mining operation that essentially employed slave labor to rip precious earth metals from the ground and sell them to cell phone manufacturers to make mobile devices that most likely cause cancer. Also, that you fairly ruthlessly took over a good chunk of the opium trade in Central Asia by pitting various local warlords against one another and then killing them off one by one. And that you dabbled a little bit in snuff films, but, in your defense, you had no idea they were real. And that you ran a pyramid scheme with chronically ill seniors in Arizona, Florida, and Hawaii. Whom you also got hooked on painkillers cut with heroin.
I still remember how the talk went with my dad. I was about eight. I came home from school one day and said, “Papa, what is money?” He just looked at me and said, “Well, Joe, it’s a way for people to buy and sell things and—”
“Because I slammed Billy Rogovitz’s head into a locker when no one was looking and took his money, and then immediately told Mrs. Harding that it was Wayne Wilkins who did it.”
“Oh. Well, that’s not really—”
“And then I offered Amanda Sawyer three dollars do show me her privates but she didn’t want to, so I said, ‘Fine, Amanda, how about you pay me five dollars and I won’t tell Principal Tolliver that you cheated on your last three math tests.’ Then she showed it to me.”
“Jesus Christ, Joe.”
“And I have like twenty-six dollars now after selling some pencil shavings to the kids in the retarded classroom and telling them that it was a special vegetable from China that would make them smart.”
“Son, we don’t say that word.”
“But now I need another 50 dollars, Papa, for a little, shall we say, investment opportunity I’m interested in with some fellows who hang out at the park, but I don’t know where to get it because I don’t understand how money works.”
“I think we need to—”
“Like, for instance, would it be worth anything to anyone if I were to keep my mouth shut about how much vodka my papa drinks at night, and how he sometimes gets mad and hits me really hard and makes me promise not to tell anyone?”
“But that’s not true, Joe. Why would you say that?”
“I told you, Papa, I don’t understand how money works.”
It was an awkward conversation to say the least! But, in retrospect, I can see that my dad was just doing his best with a confusing situation, and that every parent is essentially clueless when it comes to talking to their kids about how they briefly ran a front operation for the CIA but then went rogue and sold their handlers out to the Saudis for half a million dollars. In truth, realizing that takes some of the pressure off. It makes the prospect of explaining what money is and how it paid for the in-ground swimming pool seem a little less daunting.
So when the subject of running a Mexican prison-transportation service that doubles as an organ harvesting operation finally comes up in my house, I’ll know just what to say: “Here, son, have some of these Chinese vegetables that make you really smart.” Because he deserves to know the truth.