One of my BFF’s, a favorite auntie to the next generation in her family, was describing a recent text conversation she had with her teen niece. Her niece was venting about how her mom wouldn’t buy her a pair of shoes, but instead her mom had told her she’d have to pay at least half with her own money. (my BFF was quite sure the teen was hoping Auntie would sweep in to buy her the shoes – no such luck). Then the teen was upset that she was having to miss a boy-band concert to attend a family wedding, how dreadful.
This story spawned a lively conversation among my group of BFF’s about how the younger generation is spoiled – and we are all at fault. Are we creating our own monsters? Most of us easily admitted that we give our kids virtually anything they ask for, while at the same time trying to teach them values. Growing up in my household, my mother’s rule was always that if I needed something, she and Dad would provide it for me. But if there was something I just wanted, I had to save my own money for it. I still remember the pride I felt when I saved my pennies and plunked them down for a pair of Dr. Scholl’s wooden sandals. My mother was convinced I’d twist my ankle in them, but I adored them. I am trying to instill the same rule with my son. He doesn’t want sandals, but he certainly yearns for the next cool piece of electronics. Yet there are plenty of “wants” that I still end up giving him without much effort on his part.
My friends revealed similar tales of perhaps all too easily “giving in”. One referenced a recent dinner out with a friend (me), when her teenage daughter stopped by the restaurant to borrow $20 and walked away with half of her mom’s dinner to boot. Our kids have the latest in personal technology, fashion and gifts. To coin a phrase “they want for nothing.” But when we truly think about it, are we giving too much, or just enough?
I can personally vouch that each of the kids we discussed are truly good kids. They have kind souls, they love their families, and for the most part work hard in school. As painful as it may be for teens, they thank us and may even show us affection in public (as long as it isn’t in front of friends.) Yet I often have that nagging question in the back of my mind “does my son realize how fortunate he is? Will he grow up understanding the importance of giving back, of helping others less fortunate? Will he look back at his childhood and truly appreciate all he has?”
As much as life leads us to ask questions and have doubts, within the blink of an eye it can give us clear answers too. On Friday, my son brought home a report card with straight A’s, born from hard work, focus and enthusiasm. Sunday, I sat in church watching him step into the role of Acolyte and I wondered how and when he could possibly have gotten so grown up and mature so quickly. And today, Monday, yet another senseless violent tragedy made the news – this time changing the lives of so many people who had joined together for what should have been a happy and healthy day at the Boston Marathon. And just like that, the answer to my concerns was simple. Life is short. Our children are amazing humans and they complete us. How could we ever give them too much?