I bought some expensive jeans this month. Really expensive. I still feel slightly guilty about it, but I waited a long time until I was able to get them on sale. I had a little extra spending money, and I was in desperate need of a new pair – especially a pair with sparkly roses – so I caved in to my inner diva and bought them.
One of my children, who shall remain nameless, saw my jeans and declared them “unfair.” This daughter insisted that she needed the same brand of expensive jeans with sparkly roses on the pockets, too – since every single pair of hers were suddenly too small and outdated.
My answer: No. I waited until I was almost 38 years old to get these jeans. You can wait awhile longer, too.
Both our older girls have been begging us for an iPhone. I tell them repeatedly that I was the last person in the Western hemisphere to get a cell phone. I was 33 years old before I even got one, and 37 before I got an iPhone. The combined ages of all three of my girls don’t even total up to my current age, so again, my answer to their pleas? Wait. A long time.
With all that said, guess what? Our 8-year-old has an iPhone. Not one that works to make phone calls, but it functions as an iPod Touch. I’ll take a step back while you throw rocks and garbage and mock my hypocrisy. Allow me to explain.
Our girls have always enjoyed learning games on various handheld electronic devices. We’ve had all the Leap Frog toys, Nintendo DS’s, DSI’s, V-tech toys, you name it. With each game, we have spent close to $100 per device (or more). These toys always serve an educational purpose, and even more important to my sanity, a distraction device from hitting, biting and punching each other on long car rides to Grandma’s or vacation.
Quickly we found that these toys add up to some serious cash spent. Along with the cash spent, we found the girls outgrowing and outsmarting the games in a few short months. (Being the smart parents that we are, it took us about 10 years to figure that out).
So, this past Christmas, we found an old 3G iPhone on Craigslist for cheaper than an iTouch, and way cheaper than a smart educational toy that we had first considered for Belle. On her new device, she has endless educational games, the ability to take photos like her big sisters, and she can use it to listen to stories before bed. (You can keep throwing rocks and garbage at me; I don’t mind).
When she opened her gift on Christmas morning, she was completely shocked. She kept repeating over and over, “I never thought I would have an iTouch!” Her joy made us all giggle and really made us proud as parents. It was a worthwhile investment for us and has served its purpose well.
Occasionally when we have the money and the situation is right, we might do something crazy and buy an iTouch for an 8-year-old. We say yes because we love our kids.
Wanting nice things is not bad. Wanting to give your kids nice things stems out of our love for them and desire to make them happy. Of course that’s not bad!
Unfortunately, with our best intentions being what they are, the constant act of giving a child what he or she does not have the capacity to appreciate leads to an aloof attitude from the child and almost an attitude of “I deserve this.”
If there is a special item our girls long for, and we know either we cannot afford it or the timing just isn’t right, these are suggestions we offer them:
Work for it
Our front door is a revolving door of children, both our own and random extras, always wanting food and messing up my house. One way I tell my girls they can make some extra money toward their goal is by cleaning up after these blessed friends.
The most despised job across the board at our house is folding socks. With three young girls, myself and my husband, the volume of socks that need to be matched and folded every week is truly astonishing. This is a high-paying job that I’d quickly pay anyone else to do since I despise it so much. There are always extra jobs like these that will pay cold hard cash at our house.
Save for it
From the time our girls could understand the concept of money, we have taught them to save. Each child has a piggy bank with a section for Savings, Spending, and Church. They save 10%, give 10% to church and have 80% of their allowance left to spend as they wish. We emphasize the “Savings” category is to be used for big ticket items such as a designer pair of jeans Mom is never going to buy them.
Wait For It
Your kids should know how awesome you are by now. Haven’t you always surprised them with amazing gifts in the past? I know we have. We’ve purposely hung on to a gift we could give them until the time and the place were right. By making them wait, hopefully our kids have learned to trust us a little with their wishes and dreams.
Waiting also has the positive benefit of finding something at just the right price. We have taught our girls to shop the sales after Christmas or holidays to show them how sometimes by waiting they can make their money go twice as far.
Go For It
There are times that necessitate gifts for no good reason at all. Giving is part of the joy of life, and surprising your kids with extraordinary love wrapped in a gift can be an amazing thing. Go for it. Surprise them from time to time – as long as they don’t learn to expect it. In giving to them, they are learning both the gift of giving and receiving, two very important life lessons.
You are the one in charge. You can do it. Say no when you have to. Your kids might be angry, hurt or upset for a while, but you are older than them and obviously have more life experience. You’ve known them longer than anyone, and you know what’s best for them. Sometimes the best thing is just to say no and leave it at that. You are the adult, and you don’t even need to explain yourself!
My biggest piece of advice after everything I’ve said is this: If you buy yourself an expensive pair of jeans, hide the receipts and do not by any means disclose the price you paid to your children.