Sunday, August 7, 2011

Who Would Jump off the Brooklyn Bridge?

When I was a kid, my parents always told me not to do what everyone else was doing, but to do what was right for me.  "If everyone jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, are you going to?" they would ask.

When we were kids, we got presents for Christmas and our birthdays.  That was about it.  Sure, they bought us clothes and shoes and things we needed, but not toys or games or records or other "luxury" items.  For those special treats, we waited until Christmas.  And we were told how our grandmother, growing up in Sicily at the beginning of the 20th century, would get apples and oranges for Christmas and be VERY happy with that.

For the most part, I have raised my girls this way.  They have what they need and much of what they want.  Sure we buy them clothes and shoes when they need them, but for the most part all of the luxury items are for Christmas and birthdays.  I think it's important to instill the value of the dollar in them and also for them to understand working for something.  The girls babysat my boss (super-colleague)'s daughter at a library function and made a little money, which they are saving to buy something.  What they are buying changes almost daily and that in itself is a huge lesson.

One of the things that bothered me when my girls were in school was that so often I would hear PARENTS say that they HAD to buy their child this or that because they didn't want their child to be left out.  I used to think, "What happened to parents asking their kids if they would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if all of their friends did?"  And then I would think, well if they ALL do it, then my poor kid will be the only one without it.  I FELL INTO THE SAME THOUGHT PATTERN.  I resented this.  It ate me up inside because I honestly felt that I was not teaching my children to spend and live INTENTIONALLY; to he happy with what they had and not look at what the did not have.  (Sometimes I think our generation feeling this way is part of the problem with the economy and why people (& the government) are so in debt!)  Oftentimes, whatever was in question...a blackberry, then an iphone, a second piercing of the ear, allowing the kids to walk home from school across a MAJOR road or be independent in the mall...I didn't think A was ready for.  I have always let my girls pick their own clothes, boots, shoes, within reason, of course, but if they already had SEVERAL pairs of each, I was not rushing out to buy the latest, coolest, hippest thing...and I was criticized by another mother, who would think nothing of telling A that she would "work on me".

One of the best things about homeschooling is that we completely avoid this kind of thing.  Our homeschool friends are just not into it.  We go shopping, we still go to all the same stores and my girls still pick out their clothes.  But they don't beg for a cell phone, they ask for a guinea pig (which seems more fitting for a ten year old anyway!).  They know that when they are 18 they can decide how many holes they want in their body (I have no problem with piercings, but I think it's a decision for a grown up not a kid).  They get some independence, sometimes, and are happy with that.

Jason and I were talking about this the other day.  Where we live, parents buy their kids a car for their seventeenth birthday.  It's pretty much a given.  I was given a car when I turned seventeen.  But will we do that?  Or would it teach our girls more to have them have to get a job and save for a car or, like Jason said, they pay half and we will match them.  Gas cost $.99 a gallon back when I got my license.  I could fill my tank for less than $20 and my friends and I cruised around past the homes of the boys we liked all day and night.  Now gas is close to $4 a gallon...who knows what it will be when the girls get their licenses!  Do I really want to pay for them to drive around aimlessly?  Or should they learn the value of a dollar and pay for their own gas?  I am grateful that we homeschool, that I don't feel pressure from other parents and have other moms telling my girls they will "work on me".  We will make the decision that is right for our girls.

The same thing with college.  My parents very generously paid my whole way.  But at the rate college costs are rising, will we be able to do the same?  Will that be the best thing for our girls?  Or will they appreciate their education more if they pay part of it?  We would definitely help them, because we don't want them to start their independent lives with a HUGE student loan debt.  But will we pay their whole way?  I'm not sure.  I see girls that I work with who are paying their own way through college and I see how hard they work.  We will see at the time what the best choice for our family is, what the best choice for our girls is.  But we won't be influenced by what all of the other families in our area are doing.