Saturday, 21 August 2010

Mommy can I?

There were a lot of kids in my family. It's not that we were poor, we always had enough to eat, lived in some nice homes, had decent clothes and went on vacations when it was feasible. But there were some aspects of being a part of a large clan that always bothered me. Like when we went out to eat whether it was to McDonald's or somewhere fancier, we usually never got our own meals. My mother would read over the menu and let us know who was sharing what.

When we weren't camping in a tent on our vacations, we were all eight of us crammed into a tiny motel or hotel room. As a kid I was always embarrassed by these features of big family life with a limited budget. There were other circumstances in my family that also made outings in general something I dreaded, but that's a whole other post.

When I dreamed of having my own family, I knew that I would have a small one. I wanted my children to look forward to things and get excited over time spent with family. I dreamed of vacations and outings filled with fun and a bit of indulgence.
And now that I am here, with a small boy who is quickly learning the ways of the world (Mommy can I is by far the most common phrase lately), I find it is a very fine line Shaune and I must walk. For instance, one day last week we were on our way home from the splash pad, it was hot and humid outside and the last thing I wanted to do was figure out lunch. Deaglan seeing the Golden Arches said Mommy can we go to Old McDonald's? I'm hungry.
We did but then the next day when we were passing by the same place even though we had already eaten lunch at home, Deaglan asked the same thing.
Often Shaune and I buy Deaglan things because we're so excited for him to have them. He's at such a great age, talking a mile a minute, telling jokes, appreciating his surroundings - put simply, he's captivating - that we can easily get carried away. Two weeks ago on an outing, Shaune scoped out aquariums and called me to get my agreement to buy one for Deaglan's room. It wasn't his birthday or Christmas. I easily agreed because I too had been wanting to get some fish for his room.
Lately though, we've noticed that every time we go out somewhere Deaglan will ask us what he can have as if he should have a gift or treat whenever we are out. Worried we are on our way to spoiling him, Shaune and I decided to start making a point of saying no to his requests more often.
As much as I disliked some of the inevitabilities of being part of such a large family, I do remember the thrill of a treat once in a while. I only ever had one Barbie who I played with for years and years. Most of my clothes until I had my own money were hand-me downs. I didn't have my own room until I was in university.
It's one of those challenges of parenting that we are facing right now. Wanting to give your children what you didn't have but at the same time wanting them to appreciate the niceties the way you did.


  1. I can totally relate to this post. Although I didn't come from a big family we were tight on money and I find it difficult to find a balance for my own kids. I want to give them those things I always wanted as a kid but I need to know when enough is enough.

  2. when my children were young - more in the 8 - 13 range though, we worked hard but felt we were getting ahead. and if I was very careful I could buy a new cover for the bed in their rooms or an extra nice pair of jeans - yes they had their own room - I slept in one bed with 3 until I was in High school - so I was thrilled that I could give my kids their own room, their own radio (not a TV that was your generation), my daughter had her own bookcase filled with her own books - I had a libray card. My son had one of the first home computers. They never realized that those things came at a price - a sacrifice of something else. When they left home to them having their own rooms was normal - a minimum of necessity. they charged and filled their first apartments with things that were to them necessary.
    Teaching value of things is one of the hardest tasks for parents. I don't have the right answer - i don't think I manage this task well. Both my children filed bancrupcy in their 20s. By 30s they were figuring it out. I never bailed them out. I did that well. but maybe there are some books - professional ideas on how to teach restraint and the value of working for what we have. At least you are thinking about it. this is a great first step.

  3. This is definitely a challenge. I find sometimes depriving my child of something is kind of disappointing because I, too, would enjoy the entertainment of it.

    But I also think refraining is also a way of giving and teaching. I don't want my kids having entitlement issues and just expect they get anything they ask for.

    My sister and brother were raised with two parents who had plenty of money and they could have anything any time. I was raised with one parent with little to no money - we got by on a shoestring budget. I have turned out having a better value of things.

    So, I think there is a way to have a healthy balance. It's part of the learning process that is parenthood!

  4. this post has trigered a lot of thought for me. one thing that has come to mind is the question - do they really want or need something? Or do I really want or need to give something?
    Often we give for all the wrong reasons - guilt would be one of the worst reasons. we have to understand our own motivations.

    And yes everything we do / say / even give to a child is a lesson they learn.

    I have gone through a lot of ideas in 24 hours wish we had a discussion group about these issues - even being all done with raising kids - I find all of it very interesting. I appreciate your writing out your thought.

  5. i know exactly what you is a fine line...i feel the same way..i want to give it all to my kids...everything i never had...but i do see at times how spoiled they are getting.

  6. Being able to give kids what they want is a joy. And potentially dangerous. Because the fact is, the world won't just hand them everything they want. So it seems like a constant balance between indulging your kids and teaching them how the world works.

  7. I can remember going to the toy store with my firstborn and saying to my husband, "Oh, he doesn't have enough toys." At that time, he didn't have too many. 13 years later, all of my kids (mostly through the generosity of family and friends) have way too much. I try to control it, but it's tough not to feel like a toy warehouse when Christmas presents roll in. I do think that my kids appreciate the value of each item. I tell them to value the generosity and hard work of our loved ones who give presents to them. I hope that they maintain some kind of perspective in this highly materialistic world. One can hope...

  8. I love the new look of your blog! And I think that you are wise in telling Deaglan no sometimes. It will definitely make him appreciate it more when you do say yes. And I LOVE that he call's it "Old McDonald's".. that's just too stinkin cute :)

  9. I'm the one who's dictating who's sharing what meal at the restaurants. It just makes more sense - why waste $10 for two meals that won't get eaten, when two littles can share one? And if we've ever splurged on a vacation, we sleep 3 to a bed in one motel room, too!

    I grew up as an only child and I remember having plenty of Barbies and dolls and PILES of presents on birthdays and Christmas, but always missing the fun of siblings and live-in playmates. Funny how we try so hard to give our kids what we feel we missed.

  10. I used to struggle with that too, Kim. About a year ago we began a new system. It has helped tremendously, but is a bit mature for your little guys right now. Noah earns money throughout the week. He gets about $4 for all of the "hard" work he does. Putting his toothbrush away, making his bed, getting the mail, letting the dog out, etc. He uses 70% for spending, 10% for short-term saving, 10% for long-term saving, and 10% for giving back to God for His blessings. Now, when he wants something...we hit the wallet. It has worked well because he monitors his OWN spending and will save to buy something more meaningful for himself.


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