My children are growing up so differently than I did. And I can only imagine how differently our parents and grandparents lived.
When I was young, we did not own a car. My parents took me to and from school every day. On the bus.
When I had a birthday party, one of my parents escorted me to said party – again, on the bus – and stayed until I was ready to go home. It made for some embarrassing moments – especially at some of the 6th grade dance parties.
We lived in a 3 bedroom apartment and shared bedrooms. We had one phone line. We scheduled long distance calls because of the high cost. An end of the week treat was an extra bag of chips and we got to choose our favourite flavour. We never bought school lunches. My first trip to Miami was as an adult.
My children have been to New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Israel – all by the age of 10. We have 2 cars and can chauffeur them to their hearts’ content. They get school lunches every day. We are planning to extend our house so they will each have their own room.
How did this happen? When did the luxuries our parents and grandparents (and even we) enjoyed once in a while, if ever, become the norm for our children? And are our children better or worse off than we were?
Maybe it’s because many of our parents and grandparents were immigrants, determined to give their children and grandchildren opportunities they themselves never had.
Maybe it’s because growing up in North America offered us educational and professional possibilities that our parents could only dream of.
We work so hard to teach our children the value of what they have. And yet, how is it that they can stare at an open fridge and pantry, filled with food, and announce, “Mom, there’s nothing to eat”?
I remember my friend told me her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, used to leave a bit of food on his plate after every meal, to remind himself of a time when he didn’t know where his next meal would come from.
I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong, per se. The world changes and so do expectations and wants and needs.
Despite everything we’ve been blessed to be able to provide for our kids, they are not spoiled brats. They thank us daily, they are kind to others, and they understand that the answer is sometimes “no”.
We talk to our kids about things being expensive. We discuss the reasons why we’re planning to build a house that others will still call small, even though it will be over 1000 sq. ft. more than we have now.
So, no, I don’t think we’re raising our children to be ungrateful and spoiled adults.
But I do worry about them.
I worry that our children are too comfortable.
I worry that our children have come to expect as their right that which we know is luxury, excess, unnecessary.
I worry that what I appreciate, they take for granted.
It’s normal. It’s simply what happens. I don’t even know if there’s a way to change it – or if it’s something that needs to be changed.
What I do know is that the more conscious we are of this happening – the wants becoming needs; the extravagances becoming the expected – the more we can help our children become conscious of it too.
Our kids don’t need to starve to understand the fact that there are people who don’t have food. They don’t need to live in a shack to know that there are people who are homeless.
But there are many ways to teach our children just how blessed they are. There are ways to teach them the lessons that we as parents understand simply by watching them grow up.
Volunteer in a soup kitchen and tell them why.
Donate gently used clothing and previously loved toys and explain to them why some children need to receive them.
Run a lemonade stand and teach them about the organization that will be receiving the money.
I pray that our children grow up to appreciate everything we were able to give them.
And whether their children end up growing up with more or less, I hope they too can view the world through appreciative glasses, understanding that whatever we’re given is a gift to be cherished, not expected.
I would love to hear how you instill these values in your children in the comments below.