“It is both foolish and wicked to teach the average man who is not well off that some wrong or injustice has been done him, and that he should hope for redress elsewhere than in his own industry, honesty, and intelligence.” – Theodore Roosevelt
There has been considerable conversation in our household over the last 24 months about money. More specifically, living within a budget and what exactly we “owe” our children.
Over the last 24 months, there have been several months that the money we made did not meet our needs. And by needs I mean, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, you know, the basics. After we paid our mandatory bills and gave our tithing to the church, there was NOTHING LEFT. No extras. No movies, no restaurants, no clothing for ourselves (our children were always taken care of first), nothing. We became quite proficient at making healthy meals for 6 for less than $10.00. We have become experienced bargain shoppers and can find the unworn Gap, Ralph Lauren, Gymboree and Children’s Place clothing at a Goodwill in no time what-so-ever. What led to our lean months took quite some time to resolve (a long story left for another time). But what we learned during this period in our life was indispensable.
- we learned that money does not make memories. From a picnic over-looking the city, or running in the snow on the golf course, or going downtown to the Christmas Tree lighting, some of the best times we have had cost little or no money. One of my favorite pictures of Carissa has her sitting with one of the Big Painted Pigs found around the city. I know George will always remember exploring the pigs with her that summer morning.
- we learned our girls love to read. eBay offers thousands of chapter books at a fraction of the price purchased new. And of course, there is the library. Imagine a place that will let you take their books to read for FREE!!!
- I have learned I love to cook. Cooking inexpensive meals that don’t taste cheap has become an obsession for me. At the same time, our children have learned to eat new things. And believe it or not, one of Grace’s favorite meals is Salmon Patties and Broccoli.
- our girls have learned to swim. We managed to take the old dirty swimming pool out back and make it swimmable again. Our girls have become little fish, each of them learning to swim in our very own back yard. Long hot summer days spent around the pool laughing and swimming. Each of us falling into bed each night exhausted.
Also during these months, George and I have had many discussions about what we “owe” our children. Many people have called the Baby Boomers the “me” generation. I had to become self-reliant out of necessity. My father was strict when it came to teaching us about money and providing us the tools to take care of ourselves. When I was 16 my father began talking to me about employment, cars, insurance and college. All those things were to be my responsibility. He would, however, provide me with the tools to make sure I could get what I wanted. It began with a work ethic. I worked weekends, holidays, school breaks, and summer vacations. He taught me to be frugal, save and eventually I put myself through college. Once I turned 18, I never looked back.
I know that my parenting decisions are based upon my upbringing and my view of the world. I know that my parenting priorities are not going to be another parents priorities. In our house, choices need to be made and there is no way we can give our children everything they believe is owed to them or those things that other parents may believe are owed to children.
I do not believe we owe it to our children to make their life easy. I do not believe that we have to financially ruin ourselves to give our children what they feel they are owed. I believe learning to manage your own life financially (living within a budget) builds confidence. And I believe that our children will have to work just as hard as we have to get what they want. It is not my job to give them what I have worked my entire life to build. It is their job to find their own path and then figure out how to navigate that path. As parents we will help them navigate the treacherous waters of life and throw them a life preserver once in a while, but at some point, they either sink or swim. It is up to them.