” I want to do better for my kids than my parents did..” “I want to give my kids things I didn’t have when I was a kid…” Just some of the quotes we tend to find ourselves saying when finally having kids of your own… or hell, even when contemplating having kids, we tend to think we need to give our children more than what we “had” when we were growing up.. Lately, things seem to come to light that make me think those very thoughts are just bullshit… And also, a lot of why parenting is so damn hard now a days..
Of course its human nature to want to give the best to our spouses’, our children and our families, but at what cost? working 60+ hours a week to afford that new car? Picking up side work on the weekends to pay for the new in ground pool being installed next Tuesday? Or maybe your selling plasma or considering selling an ovary to bring home the ‘ Ultimate Outdoor Slide and Swing’ set. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of these above statements (ok, don’t sell an ovary though, for real) and there is a huge difference in doing these things to provide necessity for your family, what i’m trying to bring light too, is that its not necessary to go into debt plaguing our children with the best of what materials life has to offer. Hear me out….
In a hard confession, I will willingly reveal that over the past 6 years, Chad and I have always tried way to hard to give our kids everything we thought they could need. Whether that be 18 toys each at Christmas, a new toy for cleaning their rooms unprompted, a 32 inch pool for the summer, or a backyard that resembles somewhat of a park just a mile down the road. By constantly doing this, and trying to keep up each year for birthdays, holidays and every other occasion we could think of to reward our kids for whatever reason, we became overwhelmed. Not only in debt, but in our own heads, hearts, and parenting abilities. Pretty soon we found out that even with a pool, a swing set, a trampoline and 3 battery powered cars, all our kids wanted to do was play in the dirt..
All they wanted to do was run around in the yard playing hide and seek, make worm farms, and spray each other with the hose.. Not unlike the very childhoods we had that we were “trying to out-do”. Childhoods that we can only really recall hysterical stories of spinning barbies off umbrellas, and making our own diving boards out of the picnic benches. Ones where we searched for 3 hours to find 100 pennies so we could then beg to be dropped off at the local swim club pool to buy a bag of fruit tootsie rolls only to not eat the blue vanilla ones. Childhoods that we remember being so mad at our parents for not buying us the toy of the year, only to collect dust in the attic, and then 2 days later we forgot all about it when the “Best Mom In The World” came home from IGA with freezer pops and water balloons… Some of my most cherished memories came from that childhood I so desperately ” didn’t want to give my kids”… Why? My parents were amazing people who worked so hard to give us what they could…more like what we needed…imaginations, respect for people and things, and patience..
Now i’m definitely not saying I’ve done wrong so far by giving my kids all of these things. I am not saying that it has made them rude, boring and disrespectful because there has always been a balance in our parenting that made sure respect and discipline was always taught, received and learned. I am truly grateful and impressed by my children every single day, their imaginations blow my mind and I could listen to them play “super barbies” all day. They say ‘ please’ and ‘thank you’ without hesitation or prompting, and they have hearts as big as the ocean. But what I am trying to en light here is how unnecessary a lot of the things we stress ourselves out trying to outdo are. How much heartache we can save by just giving our children more of us and less stuff. I cant tell you the many pictures of Christmas morning I study silently laughing (and dying a little inside) at where each of those “had to have” toys are now, and how I can literally count on one hand the times I have actually seen them played with. My kids literally talk about the time we played in a giant puddle, and can remember exactly what I was wearing the first day we made smores around the fire, but ill be damned if they can remember what I went out to grab Christmas Eve at 1:00 am because it just wouldn’t have been the greatest Christmas without the double caged repeating parrots ( that have since lost wings, have only ever repeated what the ‘try me’ had stored, and Lord knows where the actual cage went)..
Like I said before, all of the spending became overwhelming, and even worse than that the visual of seeing them literally dig up a pile of dirt and ‘fix water pipes like daddy’ as their “dream backyard” just sat empty and un-played with was quite upsetting as well.. not anything against them but to myself. Knowing the stress and amount of money that went into trying to create this awesome space really was upsetting. I started to realize that this was not what my kids ‘needed’, it was more like what i “wanted” for them. They didn’t need all the stress of stretching out our last dollar to give them a little distraction so we could what? Pinterest tonight’s dinner? Check Facebook? Upload a snap chat of “our kids are sooo lucky” … or maybe just for sole purpose of thinking it will keep them from saying our names 46,908 times that day, when here all they really wanted was for me to put the phone down and come be ” Captain Mommy” and help them figure out what a “worm habitat” needs for the worms to live in… All these past years of having to go to the park, and go to the pool and having 1 toy each has always produced wonderful respectful successful adults.. and now here we sit among a world of entitled kids, parents and leaders and I can’t help but wonder if its because we became so obsessed with giving our kids more than ” we had”. In reality, I had everything I could have ever wanted or needed and I have become a better and more understanding daughter and mother because of it. I can only hope that from this point on being a more ‘present’ parent and much more hands on and “materials off” my kids can someday say ” I want to give you the childhood I had.”