My kids are so lucky. They have way more than I did when I was a kid. We are not rich, by any means. We have more than some people, less than others. I suppose I would categorize us as Upper Middle Class.
I grew up pretty well in the Lower Middle Class category. My parents worked hard and provided us with everything we needed. But we went without a lot of the luxuries that my peers took for granted. Especially after my parents’ divorce. Money was tight.
I’ll never forget this one time back to school shopping, we were at Wal-Mart and my mom and I had a knock down drag out fight because I wanted the $18 tennis shoes, and she wanted to get me some cheaper ones. I knew even the $18 ones couldn’t compare with what all the cool kids would be wearing, but I had a fighting chance with them, not so much with the cheaper ones. Eventually she caved, but I always felt guilty about it.
My kids have a lot more luxury items than I did. We can afford to buy them a lot of toys, the “cool” toys, video game systems, cool clothes and shoes, the cool lunchbox goods like Gogurt and Goldfish. Stuff I could never have had at their age.
And I’m proud to be able to provide for them in this way. It makes me feel good that they can completely surpass the keeping up with the cool kids trauma. I mean, my kids are unlikely to actually be the cool kids, but they’re less likely to be made fun of than I was. There will just be less pressure there for them. I’d like to teach them that none of that matters, but we all remember what it was like to want to fit in. And at least if my kids feel like they sort of fit in, then that won’t distract them from doing well in school, making real and lasting friendships and overall just growing up and adjusting.
But, at some point, we have to draw a line. The boys are getting to an age where they could easily fall into the spoiled camp. We don’t always get them the things that they want. And we are still very frugal shoppers. A treat now and then, and expensive Christmas and birthday gifts, but not every day showering them with goodies.
I’ll get them the $18 shoes, because I can. I’ll get them the nice things they want, within reason. And any big, expensive gift usually comes with a long conversation (poor kids) about the reason we’re buying the item, and how we will care for it to ensure that it lasts. Because, even if we were to get them every little thing they want, I still want them to respect their stuff and take care of things and know the value of that. I don’t want them to get caught up in the throwaway culture that I see so much of these days.
We’re also trying to teach them the value of a dollar. And the idea that things must be earned. Too many high school and college aged kids these days are more entitled than they could even understand. It’s not their fault. It’s not even their parents’ fault. It’s just living in a society where parents want their children to have more, do more, and make it further than they did. But too often, this manifests in parents giving and giving and doing without asking for anything in return, and ignoring every teachable moment that comes along.
I want my boys to have more than I had. I’m proud to be able to offer them more than I had. But, I also want them to know the value of things, they way that I learned growing up. I want them to value experiences over possessions. I want them to know the difference between wants and needs. And true needs. I want them to approach consumerism with caution. I want them to be savvy with money, and be smart about their purchases.
Someday, I have to send them off into this world. And I don’t want them to be greedy. Or to be careless shoppers. Or to feel like money is more important than it is. I want them to look back and know they had everything they needed, and more. But, I want them to be well grounded and realistic about money and life. So that they too can provide more for their own children.