Parental Failure #389 (Or How We’re Slowly Getting Back on Track)

(Part 3 of a 3-part series)

Now back to Nico’s quest to take over the world and our obvious failure in teaching our kids about the things we value.

After Nico’s most recent bout of toy-inspired-DTs, Ken and I sat down and had a fun little conversation about the values we were trying to teach our kid.   I mean, hell, I’m OK with Nico’s quest to take over the world if he’s going to do something good with all those acquisitions, but for all we know, the kid could be headed toward evil.  Or just toward a lifetime of buying more and more stuff in a search for happiness.  Which, as we’ve already seen, ain’t cuttin’ it.  At least around here.

I want my kid to be as happy as the next person, but I also want to see him fulfilled.  And I don’t think that owning 3 mobile homes and 3 giant houses is necessarily going to fulfill him. It could, of course.  But in my experience, more is always about more, and it’s pretty hard to ever get to the point where you have enough.

Which is pretty much what Ken and I talked about.  And here’s some of what we decided:

  • If Ken and I were constantly coming home with new stuff (like books), what were we teaching our kids?  That’s right, that they also deserved to constantly have new stuff, too (like toys).
  • How were we going to teach our kids to respect their toys when we weren’t exactly respecting (or taking care) of our own?
  • What, exactly, were we teaching our kids when we hired someone to cut our grass and clean our house?  Yes, that’s right—another lesson that our kids didn’t actually have to take care of their stuff, they only had to hire someone to do it for them.

Now, I know the house-cleaning thing in particular is a huge debate, and we’re still going round and round on that one over here, but at the very least, I believe this is a question worth asking.  One of my biggest pet peeves has always been the fact that a lot of grown men don’t seem to know how (or why) to clean a house, which leads me to believe that their parents never taught them.  But let’s think about this for a moment: if we all hire housekeepers, like so many of our generation is doing, then how are our children going to learn to clean their houses when they’re adults?

Like I said, this is a debate we’ve been going round and round on around our house, mainly because our house is a constant pit and it drives me insane and sucks up way too much of our energy.  So we’ve started having a lot of conversations about it with the kids.  As in: OK, we could hire a housekeeper, but that costs money and that money has to come from somewhere.  So, we can either all chip in and keep the house a little neater, or we can take some of the money that we spend on other stuff (like food, sports or Target runs) and put that money toward a housecleaner.

To which a slightly-alarmed Nico said, “Mama, when I’m big, I’m going to buy some gold and give it to you.  That way, you’ll have enough money to hire a housecleaner.”

Good one, T!  Entirely the wrong way to go!

I then spent the next twenty minutes trying to convince Nico that we weren’t about to starve and in fact, did have enough money for the things we needed.  What I was trying to get at was that there was a big difference between needs and wants.

What I think I was finally able to teach him (maybe, hopefully) was that we all have to make choices in life.  And money is just another one of those choices.  What we choose to spend our money on, what’s important to us, that kind of thing.

Because I, for one, was tired of watching my kids become increasingly materialistic.

So Ken and I decided to make some drastic changes and pull the plug.  Among our new resolutions:

  1. We pick up every day.  The toys the kids choose not to pick up get packed away in a closet for one week.  If the toy is important to them, they’ll learn to pick it up.
  2. No more crazed Amazon spending because a) we’re bored at work or b) losing our minds or c) trying not to address some underlying emotional issue.  Limited monthly pocket money for Ken and I both, so we’ll both have to be more responsible (and conscious) of how (and what) we spend our money on.
  3. Talking to the kids about where we donate, and why.  Taking them with us when we drop off donations at the food bank.  Helping them understand that we’re lucky SOBs to have all the stuff that we do, and that most of the world’s population is still fighting to get clean water, for God’s sake.
  4. And perhaps the most important change we’ve made so far: including the kids in our current goal of decluttering the house, and getting rid of all the weird, strange, old, broken or impulse-purchased stuff cluttering our once-upon-a-time nice-enough home.

Ambitious? Certainly.  But here’s what I’m finding: just getting rid of all this non-essential stuff is freeing up a huge amount of frustrated and usually-wasted energy.  Ken and I are no longer spending an insane amount of time (or energy) having the same discussions day in and day out.  Now that we’re both on the same page with our goals, we’re a lot happier.  As are the kids.  Because now they know what to expect.  And we’re no longer playing that frustrating game of How Far Can I Push Mommy and Daddy Before They Snap?  (One of my least-favorite games, by the way.)

Hopefully, by the time we finally clear out all this extra stuff and sell it at our garage sale, I’ll have some other good stuff to report back.  And maybe, just maybe, my kid will no longer feel the need to own 6 homes and half of Australia.  Maybe, just maybe, he’ll start thinking about helping out his neighbor (or someone halfway around the world who’d not as lucky as we are) instead.  But I’m not holding my breath.




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