When I was pregnant with Hannah, Dave and I, like every other new parent on earth, were very idealistic. One of our ideals was that we were not going to spoil our children with too much "stuff". No siree. Children have far too many toys - we said - and didn't appreciate what they had anyway.
She wasn't even born yet before we started eating our words. It was very easy to go into discount stores and buy discount toys, dream about how our beautiful baby would love it, envision the countless hours of enjoyment, and then promptly purchase it. We have continued down that path.
There has been so much that I've read, and so much that I've heard preached that has brought me to the point that I now am at. I know of someone who left their comfortable home, moved to a different area, lived last year on less than $20,000/year (supporting three children), because they craved the simple life, hated the fast pace and were determined to live within their means. I've read inspiring blog posts that have challenged my thinking. I have devoured information about the bailouts, the stimulus packages, and am trying to learn more about the ravaged economy, particularly in the U.S., but in Canada as well. I have heard several messages preached in a very short time about our generation of "entitlement" and its effects. I've seen the term "cult of entitlement" in describing our generation and happen to think it's very fitting.
One particular post I read, by Jeff Schreiber at http://www.americasright.com/ excellently described it like this:
It's a disease, too, that has ravaged us on each and every level, from the single mother on a tight budget who decides that an extra three hundred dollars would be better spent on a Coach handbag than placed out of sight and mind in that online savings account, to the small business owner who gets just a little more truck than he really needs to even though he hasn't been in on a good project in weeks, to the pinstriped executives around the boardroom table who rationalize the purchase of a $50 million corporate jet, to the spendthrift congressmen and senators who see no problem whatsoever voting "yea" on a 1,073-page, $787 billion spending bill without even reading it first.
On a political level, I disagree very strongly with the bailouts and stimulus packages. I do not think it is right or fair that my children and their offspring have to pay for this mess that they did not create and had no say in. It is the responsibility of those of us who created this mess, even those of us who didn't vote the donkey's who are in power in, to learn to live WITHOUT. If it's time to pay the piper, then by all means let's not pass the buck.
On an personal level, we have been striving for several months to live on a budget (not always successfully, but working on it), within our means, and get out of the debt we created. Novel idea, isn't it?
The main reason this is so much on my heart is because it's both of my children's birthdays in the next few weeks. Last year we spent a totally absurd amount redoing Hannah's bedroom (which is my fault and not Dave's), and because so much was spent on Hannah it was very difficult not to overdo it for Seth's birthday, two weeks later. Even though Hannah seems to still likes her room, she has already requested changes. As well, it took me a very short time last year (like the same day) to realize how little Seth's toys meant to him. Over the course of the year, he's had particular toys taken away and hidden (for various reasons) only to be forgotten about and found a while later. Totally NOT missed.
And all of these things have been working on me. We have fallen into the "children are entitled" category that most of society is in.
Yesterday I went birthday shopping for the kids. Knowing that they are still going to be given toys by others, I was determined not to buy any. I got Hannah her own Bible and Bible case, very girly, with the goal in mind of encouraging her to read one chapter a day (since she loves reading and devours books). I got Seth some new church clothes (on sale), because he needs them. Totally practical and likely boring to the kids.
Like most of their other gifts in years past turned out to be in very short order.
When the weather warms up I will hunt down a bike for Hannah at garage sales as part of her birthday gift. I got her first bike at a garage sale for $4.00, so I'm hoping that I can get one for $10.00 or less. I am determined to stop spending a lot of money on things that they outgrow so quickly. The last thing I got for Seth that will spur a bit more excitement is a couple of new learning CD's for the computer, on sale. Still not necessary, but definitely practical. He really has been learning from them.
It's more my goal to DO something special on their birthdays rather than spend a whole pile of money on more stuff. Things like skating or bowling or miniature golf that will thrill them but not cost a lot. That's what's really important.
This year I also plan to have them pick out something of theirs to give to someone else (after their actual birthday has passed). Not something that they "really didn't want anyway", either. I want them to experience the joy of giving. As well, they will hopefully get a little lesson how much they really do have already.
As I walked through Toys R Us yesterday, I almost gave in to the temptation and went on a spree. It's so natural for parents to want to please their kids. But like so much of what our job as parents is about, we must learn not to give in to the short term gratification that their little "joy-filled faces bring", but rather work towards long term objectives that will eventually (hopefully) instill positive character traits that will last throughout their lifetime.
We must provide what is necessary (with lots and lots of love thrown in the mix) and strive not to AGAIN join the cult of entitlement.