Today I took my son and niece with me to B.J.’s. Those of you who have followed me know I am big on prepping my meals ahead of time. With a schedule as busy as ours, if we don’t we quickly find ourselves off track.
After, loading up the jeep with all of the food we got. The kids were talking about their favorite “samples”. It reminded me of when I was a kid. I recall shortly after B.J.’s opened my parents got a membership. The trip to B.J’s was an exciting highlight. My Dad would say something like “who wants to go out to lunch?”. Then we would all pack up and head to B.J.’s our out to “lunch” was all the samples. We all loved and looked forward to this trip. Now as I shared this story my son and niece thought I was making it up. I had to call my brother to confirm. We talked about how much we enjoyed the trips, I recall as I got older and started babysitting or if I was away and had to miss the trip I would be so disappointed.
It got me thinking of what an amazing job my parents did creating a culture of excitement for the “little” things. – NOW before you focus on the wrong end of this story, no we were not “those kids” that had 5 of each sample. We really only had one each (except maybe my brother who is much younger and was always good at using his blue eyes to his advantage) and most weeks my parents would buy at least one of the items sampled. – My parents took a simple task, grocery shopping and made it an exciting moment. Money was tight during those years, this really was one of the few ways they could “take us out to eat”. I never recall being annoyed or rolling my eyes.
During those years all of our clothing was hand me downs, yet every time someone gave us a bag it was like Christmas. We were all so excited to pick through and see what we could find. I recall when I was about 15 I LOVED everything hockey. I wanted my own skates, roller blades and stick so bad. That Christmas that was all there plus some team apparel. The skates, roller blades, and stick were all second-hand, probably from the local Salvation Army… but I never noticed.. I was so excited to have them I didn’t care about brand or where they came from.
Times were not always tough in our household. In the early years my Dad had a great job, plenty of real estate income also, my mom was a model – We had plenty of material things – 2 Lincoln town cars, 5 Harley Davidson’s, a Mercedes Benz, I had all the latest and greatest toys, we took weekend vacations almost every weekend, we went out to eat often, hit up many amusement parks and other outings of that nature.
Things changed, my dad lost his job, had to have a surgery, my mom had to take care of him etc. A few years later they found themselves struggling to make ends meet. Often having to get in line at the food pantry for help.
My point is, as a child, I didn’t notice a difference between my 2 lifestyles. It wasn’t until as an adult I saw things had changed. That was because of my parents. They never discussed the hardships, they taught us to be grateful in all we had. That is why – years later I was excited by second-hand gifts, even after having years of first hand. We never discussed the difference.
So I came with 5 lessons I learned from my parents from this time.
1. NEVER discuss money hardships in front of your child.
During our years of hardship my parents still found a way for me to be involved in modeling lessons and music lessons. I am sure that was not easy for them to find the funds for, but they never discussed in front of me. I see often now as I teach martial arts when parents talk about finances kids will internalize, blame themselves and feel the need to quit the activity to save the parents pain.
2. DO discuss a budget.
Although my parents did not discuss hardships, I was aware that my family had a budget to stick to. That we had to be responsible with our resources. As soon as we got an allowance my father had us practice dividing it into categories (savings, spending etc.)
3. Teach and attitude of gratitude.
Our responsibility is to teach our children to grateful for the things they have. That comes with both practicing responsibility and not feeding the “entitlement mentality”. My parents did that by having me write Thank you cards to those who had helped us.
4. DON”T make a big deal about “keeping up with the Joneses”
Sure I noticed that my peers seemed to have “more than” I did. But looking back I have no idea what “more” was. We didn’t focus on it. If I complained (I’m sure I did) about not taking the vacations others did etc. My parents didn’t feed the thought, they redirected away from it and had me focus on what I did have. As parents we always want to give our children the best. I am sure my parents struggled with not having the things they used to, but they didn’t pass that on to me. They didn’t ever let me know there was a difference.
5. MAKE the little things count
A trip to B.J.s, A walk with my mom, visiting my nana up the street for sleepover, a trip to the library, sharing a soda with my siblings, even waiting in line at the food pantry for the butter, cheese, and peanut butter. These things were exciting. They were our family time. How we bounded. My parents chose the attitude of gratitude and it influenced how I saw the situation. They very easily could have discussed how upsetting it was to have no money and need to wait in line for staple food items… or that the only way they could afford to take us “out” was if we ate the free samples. Then those moments would have been embarrassing and stressful. Instead they made the best of every one of our moments. Don’t get so caught up in the buzz of the world, gadgets, clothing, trips that you teach your children to focus on the material or the glamour. Make a big deal about the little, yet most important moments. Have friends over for dinner, visit the Library, go for a walk, fishing. Bond as a family.