When I was a kid, I had a blast on a daily basis. I had toys, and friends, and the occasional treat of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. My family went on trips and gave us birthday parties and Christmas presents. But you know what?
We were poor.
Not crazy poor, mind you. But we didn’t have a lot of money to throw around. My father worked hard to make enough money, and my mother worked hard to move that money as far as possible. And my brothers and I had no idea. Our life was great. I only know times were harder because we ate a cheaper brand of ice cream back then and didn’t have nearly as great a snack collection as we did when I was in high school.
Looking back, I’m really grateful my parents couldn’t and wouldn’t buy us everything we wanted. As a member of Generation Y, I could be a very entitled human being. But though I have my moments, I generally realize I can’t have everything. And I have that realization because my parents did not give us the world. I know how easy it is to want to give our children everything we didn’t have, but they don’t need anything more than what we had. They don’t need their own iPhone at age 10 or every Webkinz in existence (do they still make those?).
The bottom line is, kids know they don’t need money to be happy – until our society tells them. They have these great imaginations that make a game out of anything. But whhen instead of teaching them responsibility and appreciation we give into their toy grabbing and whining, they learn that life is about stuff, and they need that stuff.
I buy into the American dream all the time. I look at Pinterest and go to brick and mortar stores and think, I can’t wait to buy my future children that, or my children will have a themed nursery,* or I’m going to look so fashionable when I’m pregnant. But we, and our kids, don’t need it. What they do need is to see creativity at work as we plan wonderful birthday parties on a tight budget and a day on the town that only costs the gas to drive. They need to see that it’s possible to make a wonderful life without a lot of change in the jar, but instead with a lot of love and perseverance.
I had such a great childhood, so great that sometimes I wish I could be a kid again and not know anything about budgets or bills. It was wonderful because my parents decided it would be so and they would make it work with what they had.
*Though they will, thanks to the rummaging skills of my mother-in-law