I just hung up from a phone conversation with with my daughter, the college co-ed. She needed a little pep talk. She’s upset because we are poor. Well, WE aren’t actually poor. My husband and I do just fine. SHE’s the one that’s poor.
The poor struggling college student. It’s a rite of passage and a tad cliché, but to some extent we orchestrated it and we kind of like it.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. We are mean, heartless and cruel parents. And by today’s standards, I guess maybe we are. But lest you judge us too harshly, let me explain…
Our daughter has absolutely everything and even more than she needs. We are paying her tuition, her rent is covered by us and she has a vehicle (albeit nothing flashy) that starts right up when she turns the key.
The problem, as I see it, is entirely relative. Like most people, our daughter’s plumb-line for normal is derived from her peers. Through no real fault of their own, some of her peers are the uber-indulged offspring of my generation; the generation that was hell-bent-for-leather to give our children more than our parents gave us.
I’m not sure why one-upping our parents was the calling card for so many of us as we waltzed into our own parenting roles, but it often was.
And, my how we succeeded.
By and large, we’ve raised a new generation that is accustomed to fine dining, has traveled the world over, swipes credit cards with reckless abandon, drives luxury cars and views many privileges, such as higher education, as absolute entitlements.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a peer of mine sigh and lament, “I just want my kids to have more than I had growing up…” I could’ve spoiled my kids even more than I already did.
And there’s no doubt I would’ve indulged mine way more, but my rather determined husband got in my way. From the very first sonogram, he was a man on a mission, “We aren’t going to spoil these kids, they need to grow up feeling-the-yearn, like we did. It creates motivation, and builds character and self-sufficiency.”
Despite our eventual joint resolve, we still managed to spoil the little buggers more than we intended. But, not as thoroughly as we might have if we hadn’t committed to a ongoing system of checks and balances.
So what do I say to my kids when I dust off my “I’m So Sorry I’m Not Sorry You’re Poor” speech? I tell them how glad I am that we’ve left so much for them to anticipate and savor in their adult years. I say I’m happy the best is yet to come and they have so much to look forward to in life. I tell them I’m delighted that they haven’t already experienced “the best years of their lives” courtesy of their Mom and Dad.
Granted, there’s always so much to thank one’s parents for. Mine gave me life, my faith, my value system, my education. We had fabulous birthday parties, glorious Christmas mornings, many awesome memories on our boat and long lazy weekends camping at the lake. It was grand.
But, the first time I ever clambered onto a ski lift and witnessed the panorama of majestic mountain peaks, I was an already adult. I was married and with my husband the first time I ever stepped foot on a beach in Hawaii or boarded a cruise ship. We bought our very first brand new car together and then sat in it all afternoon getting high on that intoxicating new car smell mingled with self-satisfaction and pride.
Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not saying you’ll ruin your kids’ lives inexorably if you take them snow skiing or, God forbid, on a Disney Cruise. I’m merely suggesting that, moving forward, future generations might be wise to re-examine a few of our #ParentingGoals and rein it in a bit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting more for our kids; let’s just trust and inspire them to go get some of it for themselves.
Productive, happy and well-adjusted young adults are working towards their own established goals and ambitions. The common denominator seems to be that they have something to strive for.
As that Great American Philosopher, Jane Fonda, taught us in the 1980s, you’ve got to “Feel the yearn!” Never mind, that was, “Feel the burn!” Oh well—you get the gist.
Maybe I’ll drive over to College Town, take my girl out to a chic restaurant and tell her just how lucky she is.
My treat, of course.
About the Author: Everyone from Leslie’s husband of 33 years, to her 5 children squirm in discomfort a little bit when she uses everyday family experiences as fodder for her blog, “A Ginger Snapped.” They can routinely be heard complaining as she tattles on them with what they now commonly refer to as, “Pandora’s iPad!”
She has been featured on BonBon Break, Faithit Today’s Parent, Ten-to-Twenty Parenting, Mid-Life Boulevard, BlogHer, Your Teen Magazine, Scary Mommy, and NPR. She is also proud to be liberally splashed about The Huffington Post in the United States, as well as France, Spain, Japan, Quebec and Germany, as she comes to realize this may be the only way she ever travels abroad.