Sooooooo, one day, we had a friend over to play. We will call said friend, Grumpy. It was a regular sort of day. Nothing too exciting. Our house in it's regular state meaning clean but showing wear from three kids and two dogs and a mother in high "let's get organized" mode. I'll admit it, there were a few piles of things that needed to be donated and saved for a garage sale waiting to be moved into the garage so to a child's eye it might look like we were in the midst of a second hand store.
Anyway, Grumpy was a tad on the grumpy side, hence the name. The grumpies were getting on my last nerve, so I said "Kids, go upstairs and play. I pulled out some new toys." Thinking this would get the creative kid juices flowing.
"I don't want to. Your house is junky!" said Grumpy.
"Well, tell your parents to give me some money so I can fix my house up to your standards why don't ya" was my retort. Witty I thought.
Grumpy smiled at me. And I winked back.
But, then I saw my child's face. Looking horrified and panic stricken as if to say, "Really?! Is our house really (gulp) junky???" My insides got all mushy and I felt terrible.
Now believe me, I am fully aware kids are fickle and haven't developed that politically correct filter. Grumpy's comment didn't bother me so much as what I understood my child's thought process was doing did. I don't want my children to ever think they need to be embarrassed of their living environment. However, on the flip side, I don't want them growing up thinking that it's a competition either. Keeping up with the Joneses is not a value I want to teach.
I grew up living in some pretty interesting situations. I was never ashamed per say, but I was aware how different my situation was in various stages of my life. It often felt like we were constantly moving forward on a quest to make things "better". And, in some ways I wear that "fight" like a badge of honor as if to say, "Look, here I am. I made it, damn-it!" Growing up, I hung onto ideals and goals for when I had a family of my own. Little things mostly. I wanted a family unit all sharing the same last name. Siblings to grow up with. A stable home where kids could come back to as adults with their families. And, maybe a few trips and vacations along the way.
We live in an area where I've been witness to kids having this sort of entitlement. It's all about the getting of stuff and who has more stuff or better stuff or the newest stuff. I can't count the amount of times I've waited at a red light next to a teenager, barely over 16, driving a spendy sedan. It's sort of scary. And, I worry about my children's perspective.
I'm all about rewarding with words of praise and affection. Celebrating milestones with an experience. Enjoying the little things with gusto. Turning what we've already got into something magical.
Believe me, I like stuff just as much as the next guy. There is some truth to retail therapy. But as parents, it is our job to teach our kids the value of hard work and the value of a buck. In doing so, these small people in our lives learn how to spend money wisely, be proud of accomplishments and gratitude. Maybe that most of all. Gratitude. Being thankful for what we have right now. Because, just as someone might have more than us, there is always someone who has less.