My daughter and I recently attended a fabulous high-school production of The Children of Eden. It is a play based upon two main stories of the Bible. The basis for Act 1 is The Fall from Grace; Act 2 is based upon The Flood. It was an interesting study of parents (God, Adam, Eve, and Noah) and their relationships with their children. Throughout the play, there were many references to “letting go”. There was even an analogy of rescuing a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. After the bird became strong enough to fly, it pecked and scratched its caregiver to the point of injury. The bird was “let go” and it was able to become stronger, flying away to live on its own. I found it to be quite impactful, because, at times, I struggle with letting my own child fail and learn from her mistakes. As a matter of fact, it has been my observation that many moms appear to have the same issue, almost wearing it as a badge of honor. Maybe, as mothers, we feel our success is tied to our children’s achievements, and their mistakes, just as equally, reflect poorly on us. On the other hand, dads seem to have an easier time allowing their kids to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Do we keep our children from experiencing the lessons necessary to learn essential character building, coping skills, and problem solving for “life after Mom and Dad”.
A very dear friend of mine recommended a WONDERFUL, scripture-based book called “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townshend. It stresses the importance of having personal boundaries with those who might take advantage. They might include spouses, friends, co-workers, bosses, parents and CHILDREN. I envision a hula hoop around the heart. We easily get into relational patterns with others that can become damaging if there are no established safeguards. In the book’s introduction, an alien, from a zero-gravity planet, where all of its fundamental needs for existence were provided, got dropped out of the mothership and landed with a “THUD!” on Earth. “Ouch!” It was the first time it had felt any pain. It noticed an ache in its belly. A local yokel helped it to identify the feeling as hunger and kindly directed it to a restaurant down the street. After eating a very satisfying meal, the alien got up, tried to leave, and was surprised by the anger of the restaurant owner who suspected the foreigner of trying to skip without paying. The alien had no money and shortly found itself handcuffed and hauled off to jail. This scenario quickly draws a familiar picture (hopefully not the jail part) of when our own parents pushed us out of the nest. Who knew life could be so hard! The book further details that even though one might have grown up in a home with no boundaries, the world DOES have them. One will either choose to succumb to them or have to deal with the consequences. Let’s be honest, what kids, especially teenagers, like rules (boundaries)? From a parent’s perspective, it takes so much more energy to maintain boundaries in the home, but, in the end, the payoff is well worth the effort.
Being an older parent who doesn’t have the same financial stresses as those who are just starting out, I know how much easier it would be to say yes to my child’s every whim. However, based upon my own upbringing, I see the merit in kids learning to appreciate the value of money and how hard it is to earn. When I was eleven, I started babysitting for a family every summer making a whopping $.50/hour/child. I thought I was living large when the family grew to having three children! If I wanted to go roller skating, I would wash my parents’ cars or mow the grass to pay for it. I was a little surprised that my dad entrusted me with the lawn mower after leveling two of the five randomly planted dogwood trees that he had proudly purchased in a “Super Saver” 5-pack. When I was old enough to drive, I filled out an application, got the one-on-one interview, and excitedly landed my first real job…at McDonald’s! Today I see kids applying for these starter jobs that look like absolute slobs! It is like they have no concern about making a good first impression! Where is their pride? They look like they are entitled to the job before they have even been interviewed! I worked most weekends and all summer at “The Golden Arches” until I was in my senior year of high school. It was truly some of the most fun I ever had in a job! These starter jobs are very important in encouraging kids to do well in school so that they won’t have to flip burgers into their adulthood. I laugh when I hear of protesters wanting $15.00/hour. Maybe if they got the orders right, customers wouldn’t mind paying $10 for a Big Mac! There is a lot of mobility in the fast -food industry as well that promotes really good employees to different levels of management. Sadly, I see kids whose parents don’t make them work and I think both the parents and the kids are really missing out on a lot!
My daughter loves anything related to mermaids. She wanted to buy a $30 mono-fin a mere two weeks after insisting that her life would definitely end if I didn’t buy a mask, snorkel, and fins set at Costco. I told her that she didn’t need two types of fins. I made her dig in her piggy bank to pay for it. It is ironic that kids don’t like parting with their own money but have no problem spending Mom and Dad’s! The following summer she found a Magic Fin Mermaid Tail that the actresses used on the Nick series H2O. She wanted me to get it. I asked her to show it to me. $200! I said, “Are you out of your mind? Absolutely no way!” She said, “Fine. I will ask Santa to bring it to me!” I said, “Go right ahead, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get it. Santa only brings cold weather toys like snow boards, skis, ice skates, and sleds.” I know, I know..it was just a little white one! Sure enough, the following summer, she decided to go for the more economical version that included a two-pice swimsuit (which was insufficient the summer before because it lacked the very authentic scale pattern). It totaled $90; she decided she needed it badly and couldn’t possibly wait any longer. I informed her that she had to pay for it if she wanted it. Agreed. When the credit card statement was due, I reminded her that she needed to pay her dad so he could pay the bill. She carried all the wadded up bills to her father and they counted them together…too cute! We could have bought it for her, but she took so much pride in buying it for herself. The lesson and consequence came when, shortly afterwards, she saw something else that she had to have and she didn’t have the money to buy it. As a result, she has negotiated $20/week allowance. She gets deductions for chores that are overlooked, so she doesn’t often get the full amount. After getting her money’s worth out of her cheaper mermaid tail last summer, she has her sights on the expensive one and she almost has all the money saved to buy it herself. MY LESSON in all of this: not bailing her out by giving her the money to buy the beloved MagicTail taught her the value of money AND the art of negotiation, two very important life skills.