“Can we borrow some money?” Miss13 asked me – which reminded me I needed to have them look up that word when we next sat down to homeschooling because I don’t think it means what they think it means.

Taking five kids around this country means constant demands for fun activities, stuffed toys and sweets. We’ve circumvented some of this by making $1 frozen drinks a moving day treat3 and working out ways the kids can buy things for themselves by earning $1 a job for things like washing the bus. Not only does it keep them busy, it puts off the potential purchase so they can think about whether it’s what they really ‘need’.

For example, they recently decided they all wanted an extension for Minecraft, a game they’re all enjoying playing together. Because it’s thirty dollars they’ve been working towards this purchase for weeks.

It’s been a difficult, (enjoyable), long, (amusing), hard slog, but as we pulled into Ocean Beach Holiday Park they were counting their gold coins and worked out as a group they were only a couple of dollars off target, meaning Tracey and I got to work (play) on our electronics while the kids folded clothes and tidied the bus.

“Remind me,” I whispered to Tracey as they took turns arguing over whose turn it was to dry the dishes, “to find another Minecraft add-on next week.”

All too soon they were finished.

“Can we buy the game now?” Miss7 asked eagerly when I handed her a gold coin for her efforts.

“As soon as you hand me thirty dollars, it’s yours,” I assured her and her siblings.

Only we didn’t quite get to that next step because Tracey arrived back from the toilet block excited because after that she’d been checking out the pools and jumping pillows and barista skills in the cafe.

“Let’s go have a look,” I said excitedly to the kids, because I wanted a coffee too.

We didn’t quite make it to the pools because after grabbing a coffee we found ourselves standing in the park’s games room. Rather wonderfully, we discovered many of the machines were set up to allow the kids to play for ten minutes free.

I pointed this out to Miss13.

“We don’t want to play those,” she said dismissively.

Of course not.

The machines they were interested in were the ones where you could win a phone or a playstation or a remote helicopter or – and this is where I might have made a very costly mistake – a $1000 Woolies voucher.

“Why would anyone want that?” Master12 scoffed.

“You win that,” I said, “and I’ll buy it off you for $500.”

The moment the words were out of my mouth I knew I’d made a mistake. The faces in front of me were a mixture of excitement and horror.

The horror one was Tracey’s.

“I don’t think-” she started. She knew, like me, they were about to pour all the money they’d earned the last couple of weeks into the machine to try win that voucher.

“You mean it, Dad?” Master12 cut in.

I quickly came up with a compromise.

“These machines are gambling and a waste of money,” I told them in my bestest, smartest, wisest daddy voice which I reserve for when I’m trying to impress Tracey with my parenting skills. “It’s two dollars a pop and the prize is $1000. That means 500 people have to try win it before the game even breaks even, and I can assure you they’ll do much better than that. It looks easy, but it’s not. How about I give you a couple of dollars and you can try win and then that’s it?” I said. “There’s some coins on the desk near my computer.”

Tracey didn’t look thrilled with me as I said this and the kids raced off.

“It’s only four coins,” I told her when they’d gone. “Worst case, we’re down $4. Best case, they win and we’re in front $496.”

Enjoying a brief child reprieve, we wandered lazily outside and said hi to a lovely couple camped a few spots up from us. By the time the kids ran back past us into the games room, Tracey and I were happily chatting about our camp set-ups, homeschooling and great places we’ve stayed – as you do when you live on the road. I completely and quite deliberately forgot about the kids trying to win us a week’s free groceries.

Right up until they slumped out five minutes later with nothing to show for my money.

“Can you pay for the Minecraft extension now?” said Miss10 as we walked back to the bus.

I agreed and out of nowhere an iPad she’d clearly prepared earlier was pressed into my hands. I entered the password, and five kids showed their their appreciation by sprinting ahead to the bus.

“When we get back gather up your coins and pay me,” I called out after them.

“Already done it,” Master12 shouted over his shoulder, adding something which got me in more than a little trouble with my lovely wife. “We put it in front of your computer before we went for a walk.”

Can’t help but think, like those blasted machines, I got played.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

This post is not sponsored at all. Dammit.


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