I LOVE doing special things for people. I adore a good outing, big celebrations, and making memories, which leads me to this question: What is the most challenging part of parenting for you? Some would say the lack of sleep, and others might say how quickly kids grow. My answer would be not giving my children all “the things.” What I mean by this is that in a world where children can have almost everything, I want to be sure they know what it is like to want something still. I know this can be confusing, so let me explain.
Months ago, I bought our family tickets to the pumpkin patch and had long-awaited a day of quality time with all my guys. However, that morning greeted us with kids arguing, not the best of listening ears, and toys still sprawled on the floor despite being told more than once to move them. I remember being frustrated and complaining to my husband that no one was listening, but we needed to hurry to get to the pumpkin patch. After listening to my rant for a while, he finally said something simple, but something that made a lasting ripple. He simply replied, “Well, let’s not take them.”
I know it sounds so simple, but I cannot be the only mom who grapples with this sort of stuff.
Growing up, things were tight in my household. My parents were divorced, which meant my siblings and I spent our time split between two homes. Finances were a challenge on both ends. There were often way more times of lack than abundance, and I had to go without many a time. A core memory for me is being invited to travel to New York with a select choir at my high school called the Madrigals. We were invited to sing at Carnegie Hall on Easter Day. It was a big honor but an even bigger feat for my parents. They could not afford to send me. Though I did end up going, it is not lost on me that if it had not been for my teacher and a few family members helping us, I would not have been able to attend. I never forgot that moment and knew I wanted things to be different for my future children.
Now, let me make this crystal clear. I have amazing parents who did their absolute best with what they had at that time. While my immature sixteen-year-old self did not understand, my thirty-seven-year-old self sure does. What I lacked in finances as a child, I was overflowing with in love and support. Going without made me value things (when I finally earned them) so much more. I also developed an understanding of people over things, and I came to appreciate the want.
Fast-forward to today, and I find myself completely blessed.
We are by no means rich, but we live a comfortable life. We are able to do “the things” for our children. If one of them needed to go to New York tomorrow, they could. They have clothes, toys, games, and more. In fact, they don’t just have them; they have them in abundance. My kids have also done more than my husband and I dreamed of at their ages. You know what, though? My husband and I felt this was the perfect breeding ground for a sense of entitlement. It was at that moment that we decided to stop trying to give our kids all the things we did not have and began to focus more on giving them what we did. Of course, this is regarding wants, never things they need.
For our household, this looks like chores (age-appropriate, of course). This looks like less electronics and more connection to each other. This looks like them going without for a while if we see a sense of expectation for material things. More importantly, this looks like quality over quantity.
In today’s society, it is so easy to get consumed with reel life. However, in real life, we want to raise men who are grateful, appreciative, and who value what people mean to them instead of what they do for them. Thank goodness, our efforts have had to be more proactive than reactive because raising good humans to send out into the world one day is the ultimate goal.