If you want to raise a grateful kid who does not feel entitled, please know at the end of the day, your child will remember a lot of things but NOT the money you spent on them…I can guarantee it.
Growing up, from about the ages of 5-10, my family lived in poverty. I mean, no one told me that…but even as a child, I knew.
You know there is a problem when your whole family is sleeping in the living room because there is no central heat and only one kerosene heater to warm that one room.
You know there is a problem when you watch your mom eat small, homemade biscuits for lunch every single day because a neighbor brings them…and that is all she eats.
I remember looking for random change in the house as a child to buy day-old bread at our local bakery (for about 25 cents) and a ravaging fire that destroyed 90% of our belongings just in case we needed to add insult to injury.
And while those memories are obviously still hanging out somewhere in my mind, they aren’t the ones I really REMEMBER. They aren’t what I associate my childhood with.
And as much as my parents wish, like all good parents do, that they could have provided me with so much more, I only tell them this one thing.
“You provided me with SO MUCH MORE than money could have ever bought.”
I remember special weekly visits to the park when my mom would pack us all a picnic lunch, complete with oatmeal cream pies. If it was a real treat, we were allowed to invite a friend.
I remember how special they made my birthday – no ridiculous parties worth $40,000 (how I wish that was a joke)…
No, I remember inviting one special friend and my mom making us whatever we wanted for our dinner and dessert. For me, it was her lasagna and homemade banana pudding (something that to this day, I’ve never made because cooking that pudding takes some serious love).
I remember that Christmas when I knew things were incredibly tight…but they found a way to buy my sister and me a $10 handheld game from Radio Shack and a pair of doggie slippers. I remember feeling, even at 7, that a whole lot of love went into those gifts. A lot of sacrifice.
A LOT of love.
I remember my mom taking me shopping for an Easter dress and how my heart was set on this beautiful, simple pink one from the department store. And how I knew we didn’t have the money, but how she somehow bought it anyway.
I remember my Dad giving my mom these beautiful things at Christmas…a new dress, a pair of shoes, a necklace. And my mom “oohing” and “awwing” over them. Only to pack them all back up the next day and return them for the money he spent.
I remember the way my mom dressed me for school, braided my hair, volunteered in the classroom.
I remember never feeling ashamed…or unimportant…or in any way “less than” anyone else.
You see, there are no feelings of loss…or of missing out…or of wishing we had more.
We didn’t take vacations, and I never missed them. My parents filled my life with so much joy and love that as as child, that was all I needed.
I didn’t need a new Barbie or a remote control car or a game system to know I was loved.
I felt love every moment of everyday.
Trust me when I say, what your child will remember years from now is not what you bought them or the money you spent. They will remember the time you gave them…the way you made them feel.
And now, with my own children, I am faced with a very different dilemma. Perhaps an even more difficult one than that of my own parents.
As my own mother put it:
“You know Hillary, it was hard for me to raise you with no money. There were so many things I wanted to give you but just couldn’t. And it will be hard for you to raise your girls because you have the money to buy them more things than I could. But you will have to teach them about the value of a dollar and show them that money doesn’t equal happiness. And I think you will have the harder time.”
And I’m learning she is right…the world is full of entitled kids. Of dare I say spoiled children.
It is hard to find gratitude in a world of “too much.”
And the problem begins and ends with us…their parents.
And the journey might be rough. And the “no’s” may not come easily.
But here’s to all of us trying. Trying to raise grateful children.
Here’s to all of us showing our kids that love comes in many shapes, sizes and forms…but a dollar bill just isn’t one of them.
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