A better life…

It amazes me these days the amount of kids who wear name brand clothes and shoes. It makes me think about how I grew up and how it is so different now. I know that there were kids who had it worse off than I did. I didn’t see that then but looking back I see it.

I NEVER had a pair of brand name shoes until I was a freshman in high school…I got a pair of K Swiss shoes. When I was very young my Mom made my clothes. I can remember having a bunch of these pattern packages in our hall closet. I had shirts, skirts, dresses, and pants all in the same patterns. I hope I am not the only one that wore those!!! Jason calls them little house on the prairie clothes.

When I was in 5th grade all the girls had these leggings with the lace on the bottoms. I knew we could never afford them and I think my Mom felt bad so she made me a pair. They didn’t look store bought but I wore them to school anyway and everyone could tell they weren’t store bought. Even though no one made fun of me I was still embarrassed. I never told my Mom that, even though she was not good at showing emotion or affection, I knew it would hurt her feelings. I got most of my clothes from thrift stores. We never got to go out to nice restaurants for good grades. McDonald’s was even a treat for us. We never got good steak, rather Salisbury steak. I still like that but hubby does not. We never went on vacations and rarely went to the movies. My Mom did her best considering she was taking care of her 2 kids, her no good worthless husband and his son. We always had a roof over our head and never went hungry, that I am thankful for now.

Seeing the kids today…they almost all have name brand clothes and shoes, my son included. When he was young, sure he had thrift store clothes because I saw no point in buying name brand clothed that they would out grow in 3 months!!! People find out that I have only one child and I often get this response, “oh he must be spoiled rotten!” I don’t think he’s spoiled, well maybe a little but it’s easier when you A) have only one child and B) have grandparents who are able and love to help out. I guess it is important to me that he has nice clothes and shoes because I never got that. And we do take him to nice restaurants for good report cards. He gets most everything he wants and everything he needs. But he is not a brat. There is a difference between being spoiled and being a spoiled brat. We like to give him everything I didn’t have and everything that his dad did and didn’t have. The most important thing we give him though is our time, something I did not get.

You always want better for your child. Better than you had even if you did have it good. Does that make our children now spoiled?? What do you think and how is it different from when you were growing up. It also makes me wonder what times will be like when our children have their own!!!!

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17 Responses to A better life…

  1. SKL says:

    I too had a very humble beginning, and I feel it was good for me in many ways. I don’t take much for granted, even today. I learned to find creative solutions and come up with my own fun. I spent my leisure time reading, writing, composing poetry, and teaching myself how to play music, because I couldn’t do anything that cost money. I walked or biked everywhere since driving was not an option. I almost never went to the doctor, so I built up natural immunities and was extremely healthy. I couln’t be in Brownies / Girl Scouts and such, so I spent time with my dad, learning about guns, fishing, hiking, camping, etc. Since I went to a Lutheran school, all of my classmates had a lot more than I had, but from this, I learned to value what was inside of people rather than what was on the surface.

    It may sound weird, but in many ways that’s what I want for my daughters. I don’t want them to ever doubt their worth (as I did), but I don’t want things to be so easy for them that they fail to hone their intelligence and creativity, take things for granted, or look down on anyone just because they have less.

    I think privileged families do strongly encourage their kids to do well, but I also feel that the underlying motivation is to materially better the self. That is so different from what I was trying to do as a kid. I was just trying to participate fully in the world around me. My dream was to be a teacher and fight illiteracy, not to get rich and live in a big mansion. Nowadays they force kids to do volunteer work and even give them material rewards (e.g., high school credits or college scholarships) for doing it. This sort of thing just removes kids even further from the reality of what charity is for.

    I have the means to give my children so many material things that I didn’t have. In addition, I don’t have leisure to do a lot of down-to-earth things such as make clothes, shop at thrift stores, etc. I take my kids shopping (single mom, no choice) and when I see something I want, I buy it. My kids have tons of toys and hundreds of books. They just started gymnastics classes. They have a nanny who focuses on just the two of them from 9-5 each day. Sounds like spoiled brats to me.

    Well, I do try to keep them as down-to-earth as is practical. I have them spend most of their waking hours outside, weather permitting. We mostly hike in the woods, walk around the neighborhood, and play traditional backyard stuff. I’m planning a cooking curriculum for them, and in spring I’ll have them plant and grow stuff that they can eat. I’ve signed them up for free story times in the library, where hopefully they will be with down-to-earth kids and families. Although they have too many toys, they do spend time every day creating art and music, cleaning and organizing, reading, and just enjoying each other’s company. I demand respectful and cooperative behavior, forbid waste, and talk to them frequently about consideration and values. Hopefully this way I can avoid depriving my kids of the important things in life that money can’t buy. When they are old enough, I will encourage them to get a job, and if they want frivolous stuff, they can earn the money to buy it. I say that now, but we’ll see what really happens when the time comes.

    So far, so good. I find that the girls tend to mold themselves after me, and I am a pretty simple person.

  2. thegoddessanna says:

    My children have something very important that I never had: two parents that love them unconditionally. I grew up poor, and for 11 years of my life I had a step-parent that verbally abused me. So I give my children praise, and love, and random hugs and kisses. They randomly hug, kiss, and say ‘I love you’ right back.

    My husband had a more ideal childhood – not well-off, but with two parents, baseball and Boy Scouts. His goal is not to give them a better childhood per se, but to make sure we give them the best childhood we can. None of this really includes name-brand clothing or awesome toys. Heck, I’ll admit, my daughter still lets me pick out her clothes – she’s just not into fashion.

    If giving our children time and our love is spoiling them, then yes, we’re spoiling them rotten. If not buying them everything they desire and giving them chores is neglecting them, well, we’re doing that too. We’re just raising our kids, and I don’t give much thought to what others might think.

  3. nikki says:

    Goddessanna~we grew up pretty much the same, you and I. I too had a step dad who was abusive. It is important to both Jason and I that Bailey always have 2 loving affectionate parents. I don’t think not giving them everything they want is neglecting them, it’s almost preparing them for real life. Don’t get me wrong if Bailey got everything he wanted, we would be out of a house and home. He does get most though within reason. I just want him to look back on his life and say “I had a good life” something I can not say.
    SKL~ Sounds like you’re right on track to raising humble, loving, well cared for girls and it’s something to be proud of:)

  4. K. Trainor says:

    What a thoughtful post. I see a more Me-grubbing in my generation than my Mom’s. I also see a lot more of it in the generation beneath me. Unfortunately, each generation teaches the next, seemingly with fewer values as we go.

    As a society, we are no longer what we once were. In many ways, this is to our discredit. I really think it will take an enormous shake-up on a global scale for the broadstroke of values to revert back to something better. I also think this change is coming, and that it won’t be a pretty process.

  5. Joy says:

    I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Unsure of what to write. I know I spoiled my boys. They were also sometimes brats. Don’t you think all kids are brats at times? My kids did get things while shopping but they didn’t get a video game or anything like that, they got a matchbox car or a pack of gum. Things now are so expensive that I don’t know how young people can do it.

    I had what I “needed” as a child. We were neither rich or poor. I was pretty much right in the middle growing up. Clothes were very different then though. JCPenny was “name brand.” Name brands weren’t like now. I was always very tall and gangly. Nothing ever fit. If pants were long enough, they were to big in the waist. But I didn’t wear handmade clothes because my mom didn’t sew. If she could have, I’m sure I would have. She did buy a lot at garage sales and I hated that only because I always felt like someone was going to say “that used to be mine.” My dad worked very hard and we had a very good childhood that way.

    Choices also now are so much more elaborate. If you ask a child if they want a piece of gum, bowl of ice cream or piece of cake, they ask “what kind” and I was grateful to get whatever treat I could. I feel some things have changed so much to the extreme from when I was growing up.

    It’s hard to put into words but I feel when “spoiling” becomes “greed” and it’s expected, that’s when I no longer care to spoil.

  6. thegoddessanna says:

    JCPenny’s is fancy-type clothing for this house. Heck, my daughter will wear anything if it’s from Kohl’s!

    I understand completely, Nikki. Everytime one of my kids smiles at me, I know I must be doing something right. I never smiled at my own parents.

    Oh, and I totally spoil the kids on special occasions – within reason. Trips to carnivals, the zoo, etc – when we do these things, we usually spend more money on the kids than usual, because it’s a treat. But we haven’t bought a toy since June (books don’t count). The inlaws spoil the kids with attention, and with food, but since we hardly ever see them, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, we’re going up this weekend, and it’ll be a nice respite. The kids will be passed around church, and I’ll get to talk to grown-ups. That’s spoiling me!

  7. mssc54 says:

    OMG, THANKS FOR THE HORRIBLE FLASH-BACK!!!!!!!

    Imagine yourself a seventh grade boy with four sisters…
    and your mom makes you a different colored paisley shirt for every day of the week!

    I hate paisley. I don’t know who came up with paisley but they should be imprissoned… some where far, far away from sewing machines.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I’m torn and undecided about what to write…(what’s new! LOL!)

    I think one of my biggest fears is that I’ll end up raising spoiled brats. So much of what SKL wrote above was ringing true in my head.

    I grew up with self-employed parents. We owned a small business. I had hand-me-downs from my cousins and they were a good 10 years older than I was so the clothing was always horribly out of style. Where we lived the fanciest option to buy anything new was a discount store called Ames (think cheaper than Walmart). So name brands didn’t exist for us. Kids in school that had name brands had parents that drove them an hour to get to the nearest mall. That was never us. I still had lots of clothing and some name brands because my brothers were 20 years older than I was and would spoil me at birthdays and holidays. I also had a fair amount of toys because of my brothers as well. It never came from my parents. I really do believe that it makes a big difference who is doing the spoiling. Getting treats from grandparents, or much older siblings is much different than getting treats from parents.

    Like SKL said, I am able to provide for my children in ways that my parents could not. This didn’t dawn on me until my mother in law asked me for probably the third time in a 3 month span if there was anything the kids needed. She doesn’t spoil her grandkids, but will gladly buy them anything they need. Every time she asked I would tell her that they already had winter boots, coats, or that I had already gone shopping for the next season. She always seemed dejected. I then began to realize that it was ok to back off a bit. I realized that I didn’t struggle to provide for my kids like she always had. I now usually will hold off on purchasing one needed item for each kid so that when she asks I can tell her the kids need it.

    I buy 99% of the kids clothing at garage sales or on Ebay. They’re still young enough not to care about brands. I do have to admit though that I have gotten some amazing deals on namebrand stuff though that would make others think I bought expensive items for my kids. I also Freecycle regularly, which means I offer items of my own for free but I also take items that others off for free. This month I took a bag of kids clothes for free! There was a Levi’s jacket in there that looks like it has never been worn! My son has been wearing it this fall and I keep wondering if people think I spent a ridiculous amount of money on this tiny little Levi jacket when I really got it for free!

    My husband and I both have been trying to indulge our kids less when it comes to toys though. They seem to not care for their toys as much when they have so many with so little meaning.

    Books? I’m a librarian….need I say more?

  9. Joy says:

    Just a thought about toys. When my boys were young I used to take some toys and put them away when they weren’t looking. Then on a rainy day when they were bored I’d bring out toys and they seemed new to them again. Just a thought. My boys had a ton of toys but it’s mostly because of like Jennifer said, uncles and aunts bought them a lot of toys. Paul has a big family. Christmas and birthdays were such a haul that I often felt guilty for kids who didn’t have much. But it wasn’t me that was doing it.

  10. nikki says:

    We go to the store too often to buy a $3-$5 toy every time. He does get a snack almost every time but sometimes he uses his own money. That too is an important lesson I was never taught. I never got an allowance so I never learned to save money. Bailey is learning, it’s funny how stingy he is with his OWN money!!

  11. SKL says:

    My sister should read this. She is constantly buying my kids stuffed animals. Who has room for all those stuffed animals? And a couple of my friends, too.

    My daughter’s 2nd birthday is coming up. I wanted to make sure she didn’t get too much stuff, so I told my friends I wanted them to pitch in to buy a dollhouse (of their choice) and asked my mom to buy them a play kitchen set (of her choice). Well, so my friends and I go to ToysRUs to finalize the dollhouse and my kid merely LOOKED at a stuffed animal and they decided they HAD to buy it or she would be scarred for life. I snuck it back onto the shelf. They ended up buying this huge dollhouse with about 200 pieces inside. I bet they will buy other stuff too. My mom said she found the best kitchen set ever and I need a 4′ x 4′ floor space to fit it. So much for containing the insanity.

    My kids do not get something every time we shop. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. They look and sometimes ask – as they say, hope springs eternal – but it’s always up to Mama, and I have no problem saying no. And usually if they do get something, it’s a book – and that’s because Mama has been a kids’ book freak since decades before they were born.

    See, when I was a kid, my mom ALWAYS said no first. Sort of like a pre-emptive strike. It made it that much nicer when we did receive something. I hope my kids will learn how that feels, but I am afraid they may not.

  12. Jennifer says:

    I’ve noticed that none of us have said no to books so far. 🙂

    It does my heart good!

    When I was working in the elementary school library every day I was amazed how many kids claimed they didn’t own more than one or two books at home. Sure, they owned game consoles, plenty of toys and the best clothing but no books.

    Even during the time period when my parents both lost their jobs, when the school book order form came home my mother always let me pick a couple items. And she’d always come home from the grocery store with a Golden book. I actually came home with one tonight and my husband rolled his eyes. He claims Golden Books are the dullest kids books ever…and maybe so, but they were started so that kids without money could afford hardcover books. They were created to make books affordable to kids and put books in the hands of kids and it certainly worked! They’ve been around for almost 100 years now!

    Plus I don’t buy Golden Books for Chuck’s reading pleasure…but apparently he hasn’t figured that out yet….geez…

  13. Jennifer says:

    Oh, a complete aside, but it just popped into my head. When I do come to the horrible realization that I’ve overindulged my children in ‘stuff’ the kids and I clean and purge their rooms. Those that know me know that I’m not at all a religious person but I learned that the Catholic church in town accepts donations of baby items, toys, books, clothing etc that they in turn use in a program that they have for teen mothers. I felt good about giving my stuff to a young mom in the area that could really use it.

    And since you can never take the elementary librarian out of me completely I took some of the million stuffed animals that we were drowning in too (most of them were baby gifts to the kids that they NEVER played with) and paired them with a book and shipped them off to various school libraries in the area with a little label inside, “Donated from the library of Cat____” A lot of the small parochial schools especially that don’t have a book budget REALLY appreciated having the items.

    I don’t mean to toot my own horn…these are just a couple ideas that made me feel good inside. We don’t have a lot of thrift stores here, or the big drop boxes etc so it can be really difficult to get rid of things. I think all too often people just throw items away around here.

  14. Joy says:

    That is a great idea Jennifer about pairing the animals with a book.

  15. SKL says:

    I can’t wait to get rid of some of my kids’ stuff. I feel bad though – all those stuffed animals were gifts and the aunties might notice their absence. Maybe I’ll set a time limit after which a toy “goes” if it hasn’t been used for a while. (My kids do play with most of their toys though – and they haven’t really “outgrown” many of them yet.)

    About books – when I was little, my mom made it a point to buy a few modest collections – she shopped around until she found some really good ones at a great price. We had maybe 150 books between the six of us. I remember her buying me an antique copy of Little House in the Big Woods at the Salvation Army. It was my favorite book for years. It doesn’t take much to start a kids’ library; it just needs to be a priority of the parents. I work with a literacy nonprofit, and one of the things we do is get books into kids’ homes, along with training for parents and tutoring for kids, to help families get on a track of literacy. From my own childhood, I know it can make a world of difference.

  16. Amber says:

    Listen, I have alot of brand name and designer clothes. you would think I spent a fortune. But I don’t. I buy things at resale stores and on the ultra sale rack. Trick is that I don’t buy to buy, and I make sure everything fits and looks nice on me and that is easy care. Otherwise its useless to me. I buy alot of things under $20. Stuff that you would spend over $100 or more on. You just have to be sensible. You also have to be of a mindset that you don’t need the latest trend. Classic always is better.

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