I don’t know the answer to the above question. I wish I did. I know I will never fully appreciate what my parents have done for me, and I’m sure my children will be the same. I had a realisation when I left home, and another when I became a parent, but I’m still so far away from comprehending what my parents sacrificed for my siblings and I. Teaching my children to value possessions, experiences and money is something I think about daily because it really concerns me. I don’t know how to do it, and I feel it is such a tricky task in a world that includes the likes of 24 hours supermarkets and same day delivery. I’m certainly guilty of using both, and of buying things I don’t need – just because they looked pretty.
I am so fortunate and every single day I cannot believe what I have. It completely overwhelms me if I think about it for more than thirty seconds. I have a gym membership, we have a car, I got my nails done on Valentine’s Day, I bought a new top on Saturday, I have more than four pairs of shoes, Jared and I have been to the cinema – child free, I’ve recently been to London to visit friends, we own furniture, we both have an allowance each month to spend on ourselves and we can afford to eat out every so often.
I don’t mention any of these things to boast, merely to illustrate that these are things that my Mum would never had dreamed of having as a 27 year old Mum of two. She didn’t have a car until she had six children, the thought to attend a gym or go clothes shopping would literally never have crossed her mind. She didn’t have a night away with my Dad until she had given birth to her sixth child. Both my parents are two of the most hard working people I know, but there simply wasn’t the money for any of that, and my Mum would never have expected to do any of those things.
Whilst clothes, bits of jewellery, getting my nails done, a gym membership, shoes and the cinema are all very lovely. I have to remind myself every day that none of these things are necessary. Of course it improves how I feel about myself, keeps me fit and helps to keep my mind balanced, but if push came to shove I’d like to think I could live without them. I know I certainly wouldn’t find it easy. I never want to be some one who takes things for granted, and it concerns me that I may come to expect these things. When I read blogs, enter shops, go on Pinterest or Instagram, do I expect to be able to buy these things because many others seems to have them? I really hope not.
My Mum is the youngest of four children and was born to exceptional parents on a large council estate in Hull. My Grandfather (who died before I was born) worked away with the Navy and my Grandma was a night nurse. They were poor but happy, and my Mum was loved infinitely. A treat to my Mum as a child was jam on toast, she made her own clothes as a teenager, she made clothes for her own children and she rarely bought anything new.
My Mum was taught to dream big, appreciate the simple things and to never have a sense of entitlement. These three lessons are ones I try to remind myself of every day, and are ones that I desperately want to teach to my boys. If only I knew how.
As a young child I didn’t have the latest Adidas poppers that my some of my friends had (and were once cool), I never had the Nike Air trainers ‘with a bubble’ that I desperately wanted or the Sketchers. My parents would never buy clothes that didn’t last and I remember my Mum saying at the start of the school year: “I will pay for leather shoes, but if you want non leather shoes, you’ll have to buy them yourself”. We didn’t have fancy, expensive birthday parties – they were thoughtful, often random and rushed. We didn’t have noisy, electric toys or games consoles because they gave my Mum a headache, we would fight over them and they would break.
I was never made to feel different and there were plenty of my friends whose parents were the same. I sometimes felt like I missed out, but as I’ve got older, and dare I say – wiser, I realise that I never missed out on anything. These were the absolute best things my parents could have done for me and I’m so grateful that my parents didn’t provide me with every wish, whim or possession. They didn’t have the money to anyway, and their priorities lay in different places. They provided me with music lessons, swimming lessons, a bike, a garden, unforgettable holidays and insurmountable memories of time spent with my siblings. I do not know how they did it.
Whenever I hear Winston say: “Let’s just get it from the shop Mum”, it literally makes my hairs stand on end. It reminds me of the responsibility I have to teach him that farmers grow potatoes, that eggs come from chickens, that bananas don’t grow in this country and that both paper and clothing are made from plants. I need to show him, take him and help him understand that people far and near make clothes and grow food, just for us. I need to help him understand that some people don’t have shelter, families or food, and they may only live down the road from us. I need to teach him that he can’t waste water or food, have everything he wants, and that he needs to respect the planet that he lives on. I need to remind myself of these things, and appreciate what I have more.
So much has changed since my parents had young children. Children have phones, the internet, social media, online shopping, pressures and with all of that (I feel) more expectations.
How can we teach our children to value what they have?
I have listed a random assortment of thoughts below – some are aspirations, some just make sense (to me) and others are guesswork. Will any of it help? I really don’t know.
– I feel strongly about dressing my children in basic clothing. I don’t want people commenting on my one and three year old’s clothes. I don’t want them to look too grown up or fashionable, or to place importance on the way that they look. I want them to be children – free and comfortable. I don’t want to worry about them ruining things, and I don’t want them to be brand aware. Of course I go into Zara, H&M and Gap and want to buy the whole ruddy lot, but I can’t. It doesn’t make sense to me and I love knitted numbers from the grandparents way too much.
– I talk to Winston about money – why he can’t have certain things, that Daddy goes to work to earn money, say when we can’t afford things or explain how we could spend money on something else instead.
– I want to teach my children how to fix things. How to sew a button on, how to hem, how to use super glue(?), DIY skills and know that we don’t just throw things away.
– I want them to be ok about buying second hand and learn how to spot things that will last.
– I want to teach them how to look after things – CDs can be scratched and need to be handled with care, we don’t throw things, we don’t eat in the lounge unless it’s a special treat, we don’t wear our shoes on the sofa, toys need tidying up and looking after etc.
– Winston could probably stay in the shower all day but it’s a total waste of water. He needs to know that.
– We want to try and make Christmas equally about giving and receiving to help all of us appreciate what we have more. We spent about £18 on Rufus last Christmas because there was literally nothing he needed. We both felt it would have been absurd to just buy him things for no reason. I know some people will be horrified by this, but I don’t understand spending money for the sake of it.
– I do buy little things for both of them, but often I just slip them into our home so that a big deal isn’t made about it and they don’t get accustomed to receiving things.
– I want to take them places so they can see where milk comes from, where eggs come from, how food is grown and how to look after animals.
– I used to buy lots of cheap clothing and now I try to only buy things that I not only love but also have longevity. This is something I could definitely work on, but about 80% of my wardrobe is from eBay or heavily discounted. Needs versus wants is always a bit of battle in my head. I have a monthly budget and stick to it.
– We don’t buy electronic toys for various reasons – headaches being one of them!
– We both feel strongly that we want to travel lots with the kids in order to see first hand that people live very differently to us. We are absolutely loving the stage our kids are at but we cannot wait to take them to the remote places of the world.
What do you do to help your children appreciate the value of things? I would love to hear your ideas.