The fine print


June 10, 2013 by talkaboutyork

‘Muuuuuum, can I have a lamy pen?’ 

‘What happened to your other lamy pen?’ I ask in reply thinking back to the drama that that purchase had involved. Lamy pens are apparently the modern day equivalent of coca-cola yoyos that I had when I was young. If you don’t have one you might as well just lock yourself in a dark hole, such will be your social pariah status, if my nine year old is anything to go by.

The lamy pen saga has been going on for some time. A while ago he was desperate for one. Sadly, he became desperate for one about two days after he was desperate for a pen that could rub out ink (I forget the name of those). The tears, sobbing, wailing, gnashing of teeth and sheer misery that ensued as a result of him being THE ONLY BOY IN THE CLASS WHO DIDN’T HAVE A PEN THAT RUBBED OUT INK ground me down until I gave in and bought him one.

So when he then asked for a lamy pen days later I said no. A week after that I felt fully vindicated when a letter came home from school outlawing the use of lamy pens for my son’s age group. I don’t know why they were outlawed. If I’m honest, I do not care enough. My interest in stationery only goes so far….

Anyway, the nagging for the outlawed pen continued. And slowly the contraband made their way back into school. My son had to have one. Just had to. If he didn’t he would surely die.

As it happened, he came upon some money. Possibly a birthday present. And he decided that he wanted to spend his money on a pen (I know right, not even a video game!). So I said that if he wanted to do that, it was his decision even though he had been told not to use them at school. He didn’t care. He said he wouldn’t use it. He just wanted it.

So he bought one.

A week or so passed before he came home asking for a new lamy pen. I did the one-eyebrow-raise face and asked him to explain.

‘Well because I traded the top of my pen with someone and that was fine. But then someone wanted to trade me the bottom half of theirs and only once the trade was made did I realise that the bottom of the pen had been chewed. And now no-one wants to trade for that but I don’t want it either so can you buy me another lamy pen?’

Trading pen parts? Is this some kind of underground syndicate? The mind boggles.

‘No, I can’t buy another lamy pen. You have a pen. You made the trade. You live with the consequences.’

That kicked off a good long rant about how I was the world’s meanest mum. I just added it to my ever growing list. Suffice to say he didn’t get another lamy pen.

However, he used his ingenuity and somehow managed to make a trade for a non-chewed part (no doubt there is some other small child now sobbing into their mother’s lap about how they have traded their expensive pen for a chewed one).

Anyway, I hadn’t heard anything about lamy pens for a good month or so. At this point I’d like you to imagine me skipping merrily through a field of daisies and wildflowers, birds singing, a bit of Vivaldi playing in the background, free of lamy pen conversation.

Until today, when the aforemention conversation took place.

‘Muuuuuum, can I have a lamy pen?’

‘What happened to your other lamy pen?’

‘It broke.’

‘How did it break?’

‘Someone stood on it and crushed it.’

‘How did that happen? And when?’

‘About four weeks ago and I don’t know. I left it in my blazer pocket and I went to break and when I came back it was crushed.’

‘Where did you leave your blazer?’ I ask this as his blazer has never found a place to live in our house other than the floor in the year that he’s had it.

‘On the back of my chair!!!!’

‘Right.’ This same child lost his brand new cricket jumper a week after getting it, broke his new book bag in a similar space of time and came home with a note from his science teacher today asking him to please find his missing science book. His track record isn’t stellar. But trying to be understanding, I said, ‘Well that is sad. It really is. But I’m not buying another one. It was yours to look after.’

‘You are soooooooooo mean. Other parents just buy their children new pens. Like every week. And it’s not my fault someone crushed it. And YOU DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE THAT IT WAS BROKEN!’

I hadn’t realised I was on stationery patrol. I pointed that out. Apparently, it is my fault because I am the one who washes his blazer and empties out the reams of detritus that exists in its pockets and I should have noticed that his lamy pen wasn’t in there. I didn’t bother pointing out that I wouldn’t have recognised his lamy pen if it formally introduced itself to me as a) I’d never ever seen it and b) even if I had, it had been traded beyond recognition.

Anyway, this story is quite long so I’ll cut to the chase. He wanted a new pen. I said no. But I said he could do jobs to earn money to buy himself one. I also pointed out that he had £10 from his granny which he could put towards it. We then had a long, protracted conversation about the jobs he could do to earn money. He and I have differing views on how much unpacking the dishwasher, for example, should earn. I also have a hard and fast rule that you earn the money first, then spend it. But he was beside himself and absolutely had to order it today. So I agreed on condition that we have a written contract that I would hold him to.

You see I’ve been here before people. And I learn from my mistakes. There is no negotiating with terrorists. You need a hard and fast contract. What’s more, you need a contract which THEY write, so that they cannot say that you’ve put words in their mouths.

Suffice to say that we now have a written and signed contract which states that he will unpack the dishwasher every day for a week, and he’ll feed the cat morning and evening every day for a week. He will do so when I ask him to without complaint. If he complains, he will have another day added to his tasks. I have also clearly stipulated how much money this is worth and have added in fine print that the bulk of the payment is coming from the £10 from granny so that there can be no quarrel about what happened to it – as he has a very short memory and will soon be accusing his brother of stealing his money. AND that he, and he alone, has selected the pen purchased and that I in no way can be held responsible when he goes off it two days after it arrives. It is iron clad.

Part of me thinks that frankly, it would have been easier to give him the £3.95 to make up the cost of the pen. Life is too short. Seriously. But I am a firm believer that kids cannot just get what they want when they want it. Otherwise they never learn the value of anything. And life doesn’t work that way. You have to work for a living.

Or perhaps I’m just a mean mum.

So am I? And am I the only mother on the planet that has to get her kids to sign contracts?


9 thoughts on “The fine print

  1. finkcards says:

    No, you are not the meanest mum in the world! Plenty of contracts have been written in the Warner House, the last one involved a horse so think yourself lucky with a pen.
    Talking about money is important – we have just launched new conversation cards to help children develop financial literacy.

    • Hey Lisa, I hope all is well with you. Very pleased I haven’t had to draw up a contract for horse yet. A pen is bad enough. Your new cards sound fab. If you want me to review a pack for you, let me know.

  2. iota says:

    I’m sorry for your Lamy agony, but if it’s any consolation, you have shone a light onto a puzzle in my life. My son has been angsting about not having any more Lamy cartridges, and it confused me because (a) I had no idea what Lamy cartridges were, and (b) I can’t remember buying him a pen except for one that took the free cartridges they give out at school. So our conversation went along the lines of “Why do I need to buy you cartridges? Why can’t you just use the ones at school? Isn’t that what you’ve been doing so far?”

    It was all a bit of a puzzle, as I say, though – like you – I have limited mental space for juvenile stationery issues. Came to a bit of a head, though, when I tried to buy Lamy cartridges in the school shop. The son in question has exams this week, so I thought I should help him get ready. Turns out that they don’t stock Lamy cartridges, not even to pay for, and that you can’t just go to any old shop and buy them. You have to go to a Lamy stockist.

    Your post has at least explained to me that Lamy is the new Pokemon. No doubt my son has acquired a Lamy pen by fair or foul trading arrangements. I’ll be watching out for missing pieces of kit, to see what he’s given away in exchange. (He’s very short of underpants at the moment, but surely no self-respecting 12 year old boy would give away a Lamy pen for Sainsbury’s budget underwear?)

    And what/how/when/where did some brilliant PR firm do to get 12 year old boys interested in fountain pens? They deserve some kind of industry award. That would be a challenge that I can’t imagine many savvy PRs pitching for. “We’d like to promote our fountain pens to small boys. No… they’re not electronic. No… they don’t plug into an iPod. No… there’s no famous footballer who uses one… We just think that small boys could get very excited about trading different parts of a pen in the playground…” Kudos to whoever spotted that one as an opportunity.

    • I know. It is remarkable. I bet the marketing team is actually sitting there scratching their heads wondering why they’ve had this surge in sales. I bet they didn’t actually design them to be traded. Kudos indeed though if they did.

  3. Potty Mummy says:

    I’m with Iota. I had no idea what a Lamy pen was until I googled it after reading this post. Now I’m prepared – and like her, want to know the name of Lamy’s pr agency… (But no. You are not a mean mother. Just one who’s son is learning the real value of ‘stuff’).

  4. Well perhaps the Lamy PR agency could contact all three of us and send us some free pens. That would help a lot.

  5. barbedwords says:

    I also had to google Lamy pens, they obviously haven’t made it into my kids’ school yet. We have had lots of similar “discussions” about the pens that rub out/smelly pens/glitter pens/metallic pens/scented erasers etc etc. My daughter currently has an £70 Amazon shopping basket full of these items that she would like me to purchase…in her dreams! (This is obviously the modern day equivalent of circling items in the Argos catalogue) I’m with you – if you’ve supplied a biro and a pencil for them, then anything extra they can earn themselves!

  6. I may be wrong but I think Lamy pens were around years ago? Aren’t they italic pens – I think I remember a craze when I was at school?

    I had no idea this would be a thing now. Will have to watch out for it when my boys start UK school. So far the only crazes they’ve been caught up in are Angry Birds and trading Pokemon cards (although bizarrely, they don’t like watching Pokemon on TV).

  7. such a mean mom. God. 😛

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