I was raised in a small town surrounded by the farmlands of Michigan. My mom spent many years raising my two younger siblings and I in the modest ranch home my parents purchased in the early 70s for $20,000. My father earned a descent paycheck for my family as a tool-in-dye maker. We lived below our means, however, always cautious of what the future might hold.
Our “new” clothes were hand-me-downs from someone we knew or from Goodwill. We rarely ate out and when we did, it was a special event. We could only order pizza when my dad had an extra $20 in his pocket to spend. We took family vacations in our camping trailer 20 minutes down the road at the nearby campground. Our used vehicles always made it there safely. My parents took pride in ownership and they took care of everything we had.
I remember my dad once saying, “we could move to a new home, have more, and spend more… but then I wouldn’t get to sit on this porch and play my guitar.” There are many weekends I still go “home” to my parents and find that same sense of peace sitting on the front porch with my dad, still playing his guitar.
I never felt deprived, I felt blessed.
Now, I am thirty-six years of age, married to a physician, with three children of my own. My husband is a great husband, a fantastic father, and an excellent physician. He has a tremendous amount to juggle and I don’t know how he keeps it all straight. We live in a house that represents both him and I, in the country outside of a busy metropolitan lifestyle.
My husband came from “the city.” His family was well-educated and family vacations include small planes to Jamaica. (You see where I’m going with this…) After nearly 10 years of marriage, we have found a middle ground, where he feels like his hard work is rewarded (luxury vehicles, 150 gallon salt-water fish tank, etc), but I still do things like cut the feet off of my children’s footed pajamas so they can wear them longer.
My children now have opportunities that I didn’t have as a child and I’m grateful for that. However, the lessons that I learned growing up the way that I did are much more difficult to teach my children today.
There is a difference between not being ABLE to buy something for a child, and CHOOSING not to do so.
Is the same lesson being learned?
My oldest daughter is now seven-years of age and she knows how to be polite, but to be truly gracious? How do you teach children gratitude when there is often little want? (She would disagree with me on this, as there are plenty of things she thinks she wants).
How do you teach them to work for things, when life makes things so easy? I ask her to dry the dishes and she looks at me with confused eyes, “mom, there is a dishwasher for that.”
How do you teach your children that there are many families in the world who do not have what we have when they look around and see other children and society telling them MORE is better? (Trust me, I have worked really hard at limiting what my children have, but this alone is difficult.)
So far, I have navigated this by creating our own family team. We live by our own rules, not the rules of our neighbors, friends, extended-family members, etc. There are certain rules that we have that others may not, and that’s okay because we are our own team. Sometimes, this team dries dishes even though there is a dishwasher. Sometimes, this team doesn’t buy toys, even though we can afford to, because other children may need them more.
Sometimes, this team takes clothing to Goodwill… because there are other little girls out there who need them.