We never gave our kids an allowance. Not once. Working for ministry organizations and then having a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat. But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point. Some kids are paid for being good. Our kids were good for nothing. [Rim-shot!] I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.
We never bought our kids stuff when we went to the mall. Not as a rule, anyway. The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase. There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages. The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.
As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism. And they are quickly learning to pick up the tab for the things they need or want on their own. It helps that both have had paying jobs. For the youngest, having a part-time job at his age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.
With one 15 and one 18, it will be interesting to see the consumer choices they make as they move toward greater independence. My oldest, aka Kid one, now has a VISA card, and is already doing online banking.
That doesn’t scare me as much as the girl who came in my store last month with a debit card. I think she was about nine years old. Okay, maybe ten. But not much more than that. It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties. Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes. (Not sure what the girl equivalent is, maybe you can tell me?)
The other thing I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of consumption and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand. Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.
Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me. I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share. Not sure where I got that. But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.
My youngest, aka Kid Too, is usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W. He chooses well. He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces. The tender pieces. I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.” I am not trying to cause trouble. I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece that I considered the finest, and he took it.
At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.
As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest would show more gratitude. Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas. If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more.
Then it hits me. That’s what God is waiting for. He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind. But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given. As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.
*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?