I remember my sister telling a story many years ago, a story that has resonated in my soul ever since. I am one of 5 kids, you heard it right, 5 kids. My parents were very resourceful with money and our needs, we rocked leftovers, ate dinner out ONLY once a year and hand-me-downs were a staple. I think money was tight but I never really felt it. We had to work for extras like fancy sneakers or Gap jeans. I never felt different, at least because of money or things, in school; I had all I needed and more.
On one occasion my older sister wore to school a sweater that my mom had found for her with an ‘R’ on it at a rummage sale. It was a really nice sweater, and my sister felt special for having a shirt with her initial on it. She wore it proudly to school, not caring that it was a second hand sweater. When she got to school that all changed, kids picked on her because they knew it wasn’t hers. They picked at her for having a second hand sweater and not having money. The old owner of that sweater, R, came to the rescue and told those kids that she had given my sister the shirt. She stood up for my sister and I know my sister will never forget it, but neither will I.
It reminds me of the kind of kids I want to raise. I don’t want the ones who pick, or care about second hand things or money or cool stuff. I want the builders, the defenders… I want the ones who rock what they got and don’t work to be just.like.everyone.else. I will not, can not give into the rest of those kids and parents. In fact I want my girls and your kiddos to not give in to what others want and need (or think they need).
I was talking to a friend last week about the first couple days of 5th grade for their kiddo. Their child came home from school the first day wanting a phone, begging for one because everyone else has one. That 5th grader had a shiny new IPhone within 24 hours of that begging- text, phone calls and data. I looked at that situation and thought about how the parenting had been removed from that big decision. So many parents are giving into these decisions because of other parents and children just really wanting something… not because it is the right thing for that family. Where did parenting go????
Why are we making choices based on other parent’s choices, not whether it is good for our home and family? When did we become a bunch of parents who blindly give into important things because our kids want something. Kids are kids, we are the ones to guide them- to say yes to them, to say no to them… to not care if it hurts their feelings because it is our job.
I am not looking at the 5th grader getting a phone as the problem really, although that is not the way Matthew and I parent. I see the problem as a parent thinking it is their job to help their child ‘keep up with the Jones’ . When did we become appeasers instead of parents? When did it matter if our kids got to do EVERYTHING they wanted even if it is out of budget, or if they wanted new gear and sneakers because of everyone else, or maybe to exceed everyone else? Where are the defenders and the builders?
Talking to a couple moms one day and one of them asked the other if their daughter could stay the night. That mother replied “Of course! I am soooo not one of those moms”… and I sat there thinking I wonder if she knows I am. I am totally one of those moms. I say no to sleepovers right now, unless I really know you and your family and your home. You can pick on me for it, you can tell me I am wrong… but it is my job to trust my gut with my family- and it is yours to take care of yours. I tell Amelia don’t take it personally let your friends know I am the meanest mom ever- I can take it. I don’t need any more friends and if those girls want to be mad they can be mad at me. That is parenting.
Parenting is being the one strong enough to take the junk, to save your child from situations they don’t understand. Parenting is creating a child who doesn’t grow to do everything like everyone else… who gets a new car because they want to invest in not because someone picked on their old one. I want to raise girls who say ‘No’ when they don’t want to do something, who trust their belly feelings, who see something cool and want it because they think it is cool. I want the ones who defend girls or boys who are different or wearing a second hand sweater, because let’s be honest my girls have some awesome hand-me-downs from some fantastic girls and my nephew. I love their different and genuine. I don’t ever want them to try to become someone else’s idea of them. I also remind them that I waited a LONG time to be Mom, to get to be ‘the boss’ and to grow my skin thick enough to do this important work of parenting. I love their choices but I love that it is my choice as to whether their choice counts- otherwise Amelia would be rockin’ a mini skirt or Lucy would bring her baseball bat to school.
Parenting our own children is a really important job, like a really, really important job. I feel like it is time we build ourselves stronger so we can create builders and thinkers and defenders… the world is going to need them. There are only so many Jones’ to keep up with… take back that parenting. Let’s build the ones who love up on friends with special needs, eat lunch with ones who don’t have much, defend the one with a lisp, stand up for the one who had an accident, run around with the lovely with no friends and welcome the new boy on his first day of school…. Let’s get this done.