We want more for them. We say it all the time as we plan, sacrifice and make dreams come true. We want more for our kids than we had. My husband and I are both from low (at times no) income homes where having anything more than what we absolutely needed was not a true option. The times we had things we wanted were rare and few. Since starting our lives together, we have always said that we want more for them. We want our kids to want for nothing and dare to dream for it all. Still, there are days when even the best intentions have unexpected results.
Back In My Day
Every parent has started a sentence or lecture with these four words. Back in my day… I didn’t have this, I had to do this. However it ends most times our kids stop listening before we even begin. Yet when we start the sentence most times we are trying to teach them something. That what they have now is more than what we had then. I can almost see my kids check out when my husband begins talking about how he had to work from the age of 12 and had nothing given to him. I understand that for them none of this is relevant they have no clue what it’s like to need and it’s our fault.
Work Is Not An Option
I worked from the time I was old enough to have working papers -do they still do those?- my Grandmother didn’t give me the option of whether I wanted to work. Our home was one where she always had a hustle and made sure that what I needed was there but that didn’t always mean my wants were as readily available. So when she saw that what she had wasn’t enough to give me more she taught me to get it for myself. I started my first job as a cashier at age 13. I worked full time, went to high school and took any and every over-time possible. If that meant working outside the books – hey. I did it.
Why? I had seen my Grandmother’s struggle. I had a Grandfather who made sure I went to the best schools and had clothes on my back but he saw no need for more. That was left to her but no matter how she tried to hide it I saw the baked bean sandwiches, the hand stitched clothes and nights we slept with three blankets to save on oil. I noticed when my Easter dress came at the cost of her own. I didn’t miss it when she would skip a church meeting simply to save gas for me to get to school the next day. I didn’t want that to be my always. I wanted more for me and for mine. The extras, the wants and the desires – those had to be worked for – earned.
My husband was raised in even tougher conditions. For him work was no more an option than breathing. If he didn’t work he didn’t eat. His desire to survive taught him that he had to work to make it possible. I always tease him that his work history is longer than anyone I’ve ever met. He had 2-3 jobs at a time and when one job didn’t give him what he needed he found one that did. When that wasn’t enough he joined the Army. It was always about provision for his family no matter the cost. That’s who he was then and the man he is now. He is always looking for the way to provide the best for him and his.
Being a teen parent isn’t ideal. Is it doable? Yes. Is it easy? NO! Both my husband and I were Teen parents. I had my oldest son at 17 and he had his at 16. As kids we had already learned that work was something we had to do but adding a child brought responsibilities put that work ethic to the test. Each dollar earned went to pampers, baby food, clothes and the care that child. It wasn’t about what we wanted anymore it was all about them.
By the time we met our kids were older, we had each figured out how to survive. Survive. Survival is not living. When we met we both felt we were barely making ends meet. When we married and combined our families we knew we wanted more for them. We didn’t want them to survive. We wanted them to live. We wanted more.
The Cost of More
This meant sacrifices. My husband continued his service to the Army and we set about giving our kids all we never had. He sacrificed time with us at home to be sure that the home they had was all we never had. They had dance classes, art classes, music classes, vacations, road trips and more. They had more.
We were doing it. We are doing it. We are living a life here they have more than we could have imagined and seeing the happiness on their faces makes each sacrifice worth it. Instead of simply surviving they are living and enjoying their childhoods to the fullest without a care in the world besides doing just that.
When my oldest son started High School we told him we didn’t want him to worry about working. We wanted him to focus on school and enjoying being a teenager. I heard my husband repeating the same thing when he started college. We had both worked through our entire school lives missing out on activities, memories and things we felt were unfair to be taken away from us. We wanted him to have all of that and he did.
Yet when it came time to teach him the foundations of the value of things, what it takes to earn something. He didn’t get it. I look at my younger kids and see they don’t either. Somewhere in our desire to give them more we failed to give them the lessons they need to get that on their own.
Making Up Time
Our 3 oldest have jobs now, they are learning the lessons we learned far earlier but they are learning. We gave them more but now they are learning how to get that for themselves. We may have lost a bit of time in giving them this important foundation but I am so happy we are making up for it now. They are all working for what they want and realize that even though we gave them more than we had there is still more out there for them to get for themselves.
My youngest children are learning now too. We still give them what we missed out on but with lessons of responsibility, gratefulness and appreciation along the way. There are times I think my husband and I wanted more for them to make up for the little we may have had. I understand our motivation but thankfully we have also come to understand even good intentions can have bad results.
How do you teach your children the value of what they have?