Do you wonder what your child will remember of their childhood, once he or she has grown? Spoiler alert… it won’t be the money that you spent, or the things you gave!
What Your Child Will Remember: The Good, Even Through The Bad
I often wonder what my children will remember of their childhood, someday, and draw upon my own childhood for answers.
Growing up, from about the ages of 5-10, my family and I lived in poverty. No one told me that, but even as a child, I knew. It was sort of obvious that there was a problem when I saw the whole family sleep in the living room because there was no central heat, and only one kerosene heater for warmth. Another clue was watching my Mom eat small, homemade biscuits for lunch every single day, because a neighbor brought them. That was all she ate. It was the norm to look for random change in the house so that we could buy day-old bread at our local bakery (for about 25 cents). To add insult to injury, a ravaging fire destroyed 90% of our belongings, which set us back even further. These aren’t the memories that define my childhood.
As much as my parents wish, like all good parents do, that they could have provided me with so much more, I only tell them this one thing, “You provided me with so much more than money could have ever bought.” What I do remember as a definitive part of my childhood, are special weekly visits to the park. My mom packed us all a picnic lunch, complete with oatmeal cream pies. Occasionally, when we had a little extra, we were even allowed to invite a friend, which made it all the more memorable!
What Your Child Will Remember: All The Love You Gave
My parents always made my my birthday special. I mean, it wasn’t an expensive party at an amusement center, or anything, but I didn’t need that. Inviting one special friend allowed us to be able to focus more and appreciate what I was given. Mom made us whatever we wanted for dinner and dessert, which is something we looked forward to all year. For me, it was Mom’s lasagna and homemade banana pudding (something that to this day, I’ve never made because cooking that pudding takes some serious love).
I remember that Christmas when I knew things were incredibly tight, but Mom and Dad found a way to buy my sister and me a $10 handheld game from Radio Shack, and a pair of doggie slippers. Even at 7, I knew that a whole lot of love and sacrifice went into those gifts. I remember my Dad giving my Mom beautiful things at Christmas: a new dress, a pair of shoes, a necklace. My Mom “oohed” and “awed” over them… Only to pack them all back up the next day and return them for the money he spent. Money that she could spend on us kids for the things we needed. I’ll never forget our handmade Christmas gifts. Throughout November and December, we worked so hard on them! The excitement of giving something I made with my own hands led to a forever-love of giving.
What Your Child Will Remember: How Hard You Tried
One year, my mom took me shopping for an Easter dress. My heart was set on this beautiful, simple pink one from the department store. I knew we didn’t have the money, but she somehow bought it, anyway. It wasn’t the dress that stuck with me over the years, so much as the love and selflessness, on my mother’s part, behind the dress. This is what your child will remember–the small gestures that were really huge.
We may not have had much, but Mom always made sure I was dressed nicely for school. She styled my hair into neat braids, and volunteered in my classroom. I never felt ashamed, unimportant, or in any way “less than” anyone else. I felt safe. There were no feelings of loss, or of missing out. We didn’t take vacations, and I never missed them. My parents filled my life with so much joy and love. As as child, that was all I needed. Not a new Barbie, a remote control car, Disney trips, or a gaming system.
What Your Child Will Remember Most… The Present of Presence
Trust me when I say what your child will remember years from now is not what you bought them, or didn’t buy them. They will remember the time you gave, and the way you made them feel.
Now, with my own children, I am faced with a very different dilemma. Perhaps an even more difficult one than that of my own parents.
As my own mother put it:
“You know Hillary, it was hard for me to raise you with no money. There were so many things I wanted to give you but just couldn’t. And it will be hard for you to raise your girls because you have the money to buy them more things than I could. But, you will have to teach them about the value of a dollar, and show them that money doesn’t equal happiness. I think you will have the harder time.”
I’m learning that she is right. The world is full of spoiled children who become entitled adults. It’s hard to find gratitude in a world of “too much.”
The problem begins and ends with us, their parents. The journey might be rough, and the “no’s” may not come easily. Here’s to all of us trying to raise grateful children, showing them that love comes in many shapes, sizes and forms… but a dollar bill just isn’t one of them.