Friday, 30 November 2012

Parenting Post : "But everyone else has ..."

The following post is written for my Fairy Bookmother, Jen.  As my regular blog readers may remember Jen is my friend who would, every now and then, show up at my door with an armful of books that she liked and thought I'd enjoy.  It's for this reason that I dubbed her my "Fairy Bookmother". 

Not only was Jen an avid reader and loved to cook but she could decorate beautiful cookies for school holiday celebrations that put my meagre talents to shame.  She was a devoted, and much loved, mother and wife. 

It is with great sadness that I tell you that earlier this week, at the age of only 40, Jen suddenly passed away.  This news hit me like a tonne of bricks.  I've known Jen since we were 16 years old.  We lost touch over the years but reconnected four years ago and found out that we had a lot in common.

Jen has always been one of the biggest supporters of my little blog.  I would often write my more humourous blog posts hoping to get a comment on the blog (or in person) from Jen because Jen knew funny.  She was a riot and I loved her oh-so-sarcastic sense of humour.  She'd tease me for using terms like 'you bet your sweet bippy' (because apparently only 80 year olds use that term lol) and she encouraged me to keep at the blog when I thought of giving it all up.

Jen, this post is for you because even though this week I truly don't feel like smiling, I know that you'd appreciate this post.  Actually, I wrote it several days ago hoping to get a smile or comment out of you.

Will I miss you, Jen?  You bet your sweet bippy I will. 

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As most of you know I'm now a mom to a teenager.  This is a bold new world that Brad and I are embarking on.  All we have to aid us is Brad's patience of a saint, my stubbornness and Mother Bear devotion and some pretty awesome parents that we watched raise us into the people we are today.  They did a pretty bang up job! :) 

Lately we've been hearing a lot of the same kind of sentences coming from our oldest son (ever since Boy 1 started middle school actually).  These sentences are: "When can I get a ...."  or "But everyone else has ..."  You can end those sentences with the following:
  • Smart Phone
  • no bedtime
  • no chores
  • unlimited screen time
  • TVs and game consoles in their rooms 
The endings for those sentences are, seemingly and sadly, endless.

How do Brad and I handle this type of question?  With 13 years of parenting experience under our belts you're probably waiting for a gem of a response in line with all of those wise parenting books, right?  You'll be waiting a little longer for a gem of wisdom because I've only read about three parenting books in my life.  I've been too busy parenting to read up on parenting.  Sad but true.

When I hear those sentences come out of my small human's mouth as well as little gems like "But 'so-and-so' got their own smart phone and didn't even have to pay for it themselves!  All they had to do was ask and their parents gave it to them." I respond in the following way ...

{said in an over-the-top valley girl voice} "O-M-G, Boy 1.  'So-and-so's parents are like so totally awesome and WAAAY more cool than YOUR parents.  Your parents totally suck if they're not going to buy you a smart phone just for being your own fabulous self.  How could your parents ask you to pay for your iTouch and half of your laptop???  They have their priorities out of whack.  Like, totally." {finish with a fake gum smack} 

OK, I will admit that my family is reknowned for our sarcastic wit and humour so I know that Boy 1 gets where I'm coming from.  Does he enjoy hearing my wicked awesome Valley Girl impression in a sarcastic tone?  A little (because he is my child and my impression is pretty darn good, I must say).  But he gets my point.

See, Brad and I hold firm to the following parenting ideal -- kids need to be raised so that when they venture out into the big wide world at the end of their teens they'll be ready and able to 'swim' on their own.  As I've said to Boy 1 (as well as the other small humans who dwell with me), you will be prepared when you leave home.  I promise you that. 

My kids already know how to cook/bake basic dishes, clean, use a debit card, do their own banking, do their own laundry (ok, nine year old Missy Moo needs help with laundry and banking but she gets the gist).  They know and understand how long it takes to earn enough money (whether that's from babysitting or doing chores) to buy something that they really, really want.  They no longer ask for everything when we go out to the mall because they get their own allowance and know that if they want something they can, by all means, spend their own money on it. 

Side note:  It's funny how the kids no longer want to buy something when they know it'll come out of their bank account and not mine.  

Brad and I know that if the kids spend their own hard earned money that they'll take care of their beloved iTouches/laptops etc.  This strategy, so far, is working.  Having a stake in something makes you care.  Period.  The end.

Where did I learn this enlightened tidbit of parenting knowledge?  My parents, of course.  My parents are financially well off but, unlike some people believe, they don't believe in hand outs.  Would they be there if we needed help financially?  Yes, most definitely.  But as my dear old dad likes to say 'struggling gives you character'.  Over the years I've felt like I've got character up the old wazoo (nice image) but I got his point.  Struggling makes you stronger and helps you appreciate what you have so much more because you've worked together as a couple (or on your own) to get over the bumps in the road to get there. 

Case in point - My parents made my two sisters and I pay for half of our University/college educations.  Why, when they could afford to pay the whole amount?  Because when you just spent thousands and thousands of your own hard earned money that you made slingin' burgers you do your darndest to get the best grades you can because you don't want to pay for an extra year of university. No, you definitely don't.  Did I get the best grades in my entire academic career while in university and college?  Yes ... I ... did.

Am I poo-pooing other parenting strategies that give children everything their hearts desire with little to no accountability?  Maybe a little, if I'm being honest.  Ok, more than a little.  You know why?  Because it makes teaching my kids that working hard for something will pay off in the end a LOT harder when they see Suzy take her 'totally old iPhone 4' and smash it against a wall to break it because she knows her parents will buy her the new iPhone 5.  A frighteningly true (and oh-so-maddening) story.

In my own opinion, what do I think these parents are teaching their kids?  That all you need to do is smile and ask for something and you'll get it.  But the problem with that train of thought is ... the world doesn't work that way.  No one is going to give you a job just because you asked for it (if that were the case I would have asked Guy Fieri for his job a LONG time ago).  No one is going to give you a huge discount on a new car just because you smiled pretty. No one is going to do your laundry each week for you because you asked them to do it (otherwise I'd have a shirtless Ian Somerhalder doing MY laundry!).  That's not how the big old world works.

I'm just hoping that my kids get the whole 'struggling builds character' thing before I lose my ever lovin' mind answering again and again the age-old question of 'why can't you buy me a cell phone like everyone else's parents?'  Here's to Brad and I continuing to have the strength of our convictions.  Here's to our kids being that much more prepared and appreciative for the struggle they worked through in order to get the prizes at the end. 

I don't want to raise spoiled kids.  Brad and I totally believe that if we can hold true and guide the kids through the bumps and struggles that are a given in learning to stand on their own, that these three kids will become strong, independent and even more awesome (than they already are) young adults.  That is my goal as a parent ... and to have a whole lot of fun along the way.

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