Sunday, 17 May 2009

Saying NO; Simple, Frugal, and Loving?

Posted by: Paul Gardener
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)

We have a teenager in the home. He’s 14, and with two younger brothers in the ranks at 12 and 11 he’s giving us a pretty solid preview of what’s to come in the next few years; bouts of insanity, manic joy and illogical depression, paranoia and loving moments. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but anyone that has or has had a teenager probably gets my drift, they can be a little “moody”.

There are times when our boys want to go places, or do things with friends that we just aren’t comfortable with for one reason or another. We take very seriously the charge we have to look out for our kids well being. Some may call us over-protective but I’m willing to take the hit on that one. I figure they’ll be a lot less scarred by not getting to surf the Internet un-supervised or hang out with kids that we feel are “trouble waiting to happen” than they would be if God forbid they were targeted by an Internet predator or got caught up in some trouble that could have been avoided. We’ve also tried hard to make sure that as our boys get older they learn that things are very rarely just given. If they want something now, or in the future, they need to be willing to do some work for them. There are a lot of times when this makes them a bit crazy. They have friends who have everything they could ever want given to them as soon as they can conceive of it and have a hard time figuring out why it is that they don’t. I work hard and I make a good income, better perhaps than some of those friends’ parents, and still they get NO’s from us. Why? Because I love them, that’s why.

Now, excuse me a minute while I digress to tell you a quick story. A little over a week ago, was our oldest boy’s birthday. The only thing that he’s wanted, and had worked hard saving toward on his own mind you, was an electric guitar. It was a goal that we had decided to help him reach for his birthday. We spent the evening shopping around, comparing prices and “test driving” different guitars. In the end, he was able to find a guitar that was in his budget, which was of good lasting quality and came with some basic services available for the life of the guitar. After the shopping trip, and then later that evening, he came to me to say thank you for helping him stay patient and keep focused on his goal. He was so happy with having reached his goal, or maybe it was just having gotten what he wanted, that he was beaming all evening.

The reason I bother to tell you about this is because just this week we, the wife and I that is, were talking to each other just after asking our son to take a little time upstairs in his room to get a handle on himself after becoming a little, shall we say annoyed with us, for not allowing him to do something that he wanted to do. I remember telling her “Remember how nice it was when he ‘loved’ us last week?” And then it happened. I had an epiphany that made me some understanding of the reasoning behind why some parents treat their kids the way they do; like they are little Kings and Queens who cannot be denied anything. I mean, it’s hard to be a parent. Who of us likes having their kids mad at them or feeling like we’re “picking on them”. We love to see their smiles and beaming faces. We thrive on them being excited to talk to us and giving hugs and love right? Who wouldn’t want that?

I guess I can understand why families that have two working parents, or maybe even just a single parent that obviously has to work, taking hours of the day away from the time they can spend with their kids would feel the need to shower them with gifts and “stuff”. I can’t say there aren’t times when I like to give my kids something special because I know I’ve been busy lately. It’s a conundrum though isn’t it? We work more to afford all the things that we “have” to get, and then feel guilty for working so much and feel obligated to get more stuff, which we have to work more to afford… etc, etc.

As we look further into this idea of simple and frugal living we inevitably come up against this argument. My wife and I did and it took us talking about what we wanted and what we were willing to give up in order to get it. We determined that, at least while our kids were young, we wanted her to have the ability to stay at home with them. I didn’t make much at the time so it meant making some hard choices. We taught ourselves to repair and re-use things when we could, we built regular habits of buying second hand clothes, toys and furnishings and my wife became an expert at stretching a food dollar. These are all things that are regularly suggested as ways to down-size and simplify; no shockers there. The other thing we had to master though was the art of saying NO, and meaning it. It’s hard to do sometimes. But in the long run I think it makes for better budgets and happier kids. You may be saying “What? Happier kids that get told NO? I don’t believe it!” but I tell you it’s true. Remember, raising happy kids doesn’t just mean while they’re kids. It also means raising happy kids that will be happy adults too!

We’ve all heard the term “spoiled rotten” right? Well, it comes from somewhere. Few are the families whose children can be given everything they want for nothing and who will grow up to be able to continue to afford to live that way. So unless your children will be the heirs to some enormous family wealth at some point the chances are that they’re gonna have to work to pay for things themselves one day. What kind of lesson do we teach them when we let them have everything they could ever want? Certainly not that things come at a price in the real world.

The reason I even bother to get into this is because I think it's one of those topics that maybe doesn't get talked about a lot. Often times I think it's easy to decide that we're going to "go green" or live more simply and frugally, but that we don't want our kids to have to "suffer" for it. I submit to you that they will not suffer. In fact, I think I can be second and thirded by many others here that can share with you the INCREASE in their children's joy and happiness after deciding to simplify their lives. What child wouldn't prefer a little time laughing with their family playing board games over a video game? Who of them wouldn't be thankful for a little less "stuff" in exchange for a little more time?

I hope this is received in the tone of which I mean it too. It's not about just saying NO to your kids. It's about helping them to know their place in the world. It's about giving them the keys to a happy future rather than one that leads them from one temporary pleasure to the next.

Bless you all. Till next time.