I Am Not Giving My Kids Everything
Mom, are we poor?
Poor? No, not at all. Why?
Well, why won’t you buy us everything we want?
Oh, honey, that’s not because we’re poor. That’s because I am mean.
No, you’re not.
My son laughed when he said it. That gives me hope that sticking to my conviction that less is more isn’t going to scar my children for life.
Years ago when I was pregnant with my fourth child I met a woman at the library who was there with her child. Our kids played together. When she found out that the three were mine, she quickly said that she was only having one child because she wanted “to give him everything.” At the time I was offended. I felt like the implication was that I didn’t want to give my children everything. It was a defining moment in my parenting. From that point on I wondered about the perceptions other people had of me and of my family.
But as the years have passed and my children have grown, I realize I don’t give my children everything. And even more importantly, I don’t want to give my children everything.
I am not sure that there is a parent out there who doesn’t want to give their child a better life than what they had. Even those of us who had pretty great childhoods strive to give our children even more. But more what? Stuff? Material possessions? At what cost does giving “everything” come?
I have a friend who goes on and on about how she gives her kids everything. And I can attest to it, she does buy them everything their little hearts desire. Unfortunately, she also goes on and on about how unappreciative and ungrateful they are. I can’t help but think these two things go hand in hand. How can anything be valued if it comes so easily? Her children are constantly looking for the newest thing, the latest upgrade. They whine for new things, yet once they acquire them they are quickly bored.
My daughter came home from school the first day after the Christmas break and told me that several of her friends had received an iTouch for Christmas, a couple got iPads, and that one of her friends had even gotten an iPhone. I wasn’t really sure whether I should believe it. Did I mention my daughter is seven years old?
My nine year old son confirmed it. It is the same with the children in his grade. He is one of a handful who do not have a phone of their own, a fact which he complains about on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Several have iPhones. Aside from the unrestricted access to the Internet which I find worrisome, I am not sure what reason there is for buying a child something that expensive. Not to mention breakable. And who exactly are they calling? Their mothers? My children talk to me enough face to face, I don’t need them phoning or texting me also. My ears need a break sometimes.
It isn’t so much about the phone or the technology, but about the instant gratification and the importance being placed on acquiring stuff at such a young age that unsettles me. My children have much more than I could have ever imagined having at their ages. Yet compared to their peers, they have much less stuff.
I’ll admit that at times it isn’t easy. I want to make them happy ALL THE TIME. But I know that isn’t realistic, or, dare I say, healthy. It has opened wonderful conversations with my older children about living within your means and the concept of credit card debt. I also make it a point to tell my kids when I really want something but am not getting it. I think sometimes they believe that I just buy myself everything I want, you know like groceries.
As I watch the friends of my children get things at increasingly younger ages, I wonder where it goes from there. If you get your own cell phone when you are 7, what are you getting when you are 10, or 15? What is there to look forward to if you have already gotten it all before you are out of elementary school? Isn’t there a benefit to wanting something and having to wait for it? Isn’t there a life lesson to be learned in wanting something and not getting it?