What do we owe our kids?

A young lady (YL), in her mid-teens, and her long-suffering mother (LSM) are preparing to leave the house to go their respective Saturday morning activities.

LSM: So, I’ll see you back here after lunch some time?

YL: Yup (while texting)

 LSM: Do you want to do something this afternoon?

 YL: (stops texting for a moment) YES! You can take me to Winners  and buy me new clothes.

LSM: Ha ha. Your bedroom floor is 3 feet deep with clothes. I don’t think you need anymore right now.

YL: (whining) Yes, I do. All my clothes are old and yucky.

LSM: Maybe if you and all your friends didn’t have to walk over them to get into your room, they wouldn’t be so yucky? Maybe you should buy your own clothes and then you’d take better care of them.

YL: WHAT? I already have to buy everything myself.

YSM: Everything, eh? Like what?

YL: Like everything. It’s not fair. No one else has to have a stupid job and pay for all their own stuff.

YSM: All your own stuff? Like what?

YL: I had to pay for the movie yesterday. My friends didn’t have to pay for their own movie. My friends’ parents just give them money whenever they want it.

 Listening to these two quibble reminds me of a hundred similar arguments I’ve had with XUP Jr. I’m sure that somewhere in her heart of hearts she knows she’s doing okay and that there are kids in the world worse off than she is, but you wouldn’t know it by some of the hard-done-by stories she comes out with.

 And this always leads me to question: As responsible people and parents, what exactly do we owe our kids? Aside from the basics like love, nurturing, food, water, shelter, etc.?

I’ve chosen where we live based on the quality of the available schools in the area. This is great in many ways because she goes to school with kids who are mostly quite motivated to learn; who have fairly stable home lives; and who generally walk the path of straight and narrow.

In other ways, this rather insular peer group has given XUP Jr. a bit of an unrealistic  picture of what is “normal”.  Based on her peer experiences:

  •  All kids have large homes with rec rooms in the basement where teenagers can hang out, watch big-screen TVs, play air hockey, steal booze from the wet bar and crash out for the night
  • All kids take one major vacation a year to Europe or China or Australia or cruise to Alaska
  • All kids also have one minor vacation a year during March break to somewhere warm or Disneyland
  • All kids go on two or three road trips every year to New York, Chicago, Montreal or Vancouver
  • All kids spend a good part of their summer at the family cottage
  • All kids have computers and TVs in their rooms
  • All kids have the most current cell phone technology and the most current iPod (both of which change every 6 months)
  • All kids buy their clothes only from only the most expensive boutiques
  • All kids’ families have at least 2 cars and will drive the kids anywhere they want to go any time, day or night

Some of her friends do have jobs (though she chooses to forget that) but many of her friends don’t and yet always have money for shopping, eating out, movies and other outings. So, I have to assume that what she, and they, say is true – their parents just give them money whenever they want it.

I think parents do owe their kids something beyond the basics. Though circumstances don’t always make it possible, we should strive for some enrichment activities for our children – sports or music or dance lessons or something. Something that encourages their particular passion or skill or strength. Something that they can feel especially proud of themselves for. Something that may give them an edge as they go through life.

I think we also owe our kids some sort of additional start in life – whether that’s paying for their first university degree or college diploma or, if that’s not the way they want to go, some seed money to start up a business or buy their first home or whatever.

Travel, though it has so many issues these days, can also be a very important part of a child’s growth. Travel doesn’t necessarily have to mean exotic vacations. Just getting kids out of their own town once in a while and letting them experience a different community, different people, different lifestyles is good.

 Anyway, these are things I always tried to provide for my kid above and beyond the basics. And as much as we can poo-poo the cliquishness of school, I confess I’ve always done what I could to help her “fit in.” She was already a bit of an oddball because she doesn’t have a father and because she eats “weird stuff” and because I don’t have a car to drive her around in.  So, I bought her trendier clothes that cost a bit more than the sensible clothes. And, she was one of the first kids to have a cell phone – though that was more so we could keep in touch than to be cool. And she has the the best iPod in the whole world thanks mummy.

And contrary to what she may tell everyone, I still buy most of her stuff. Her money goes to movies and nail polish and $70 leggings from Holt Renfrew. I worry sometimes about her values. I hope they’ll sort themselves out once the self-centered teen years are over.

It’s a tough parental line to walk – that balance between your desire to give your kids every thing/every advantage and letting them learn how to set and accomplish their own goals, to expect them to put some effort (aside from sticking their hand out)  into achieving their desires.

How do you, or how did your parents, work that one out?

Advertisements

38 responses to “What do we owe our kids?

  1. My daughter actually wanted to get a job in high school but I said no. I told her it might distract from her school work and I wanted her to get a scholarship, which she did. I gave her money when she needed it for something. My parents always gave me money if I wanted something but Dad did make me get a job when I got my driver’s license so that I could contribute toward my car payment. Because of my job I could not participate in any after school activities and those are so important now on college applications, so that’s another reason I did not want my daughter to work.

  2. I’ve tried to give DD more than the basics too: lots of travel (mainly because it’s my passion, but also because of the educational aspect), after-school/ weekend activities of her choice (of course, she stuck with horseback riding – the most expensive! – the longest), and her dad and I paid for her university education. I also bought all her clothes and extras like her cellphone and iPod, till she got her first part-time job at age 17, and then she took over (though I’ll still help out at times). Many of my friends believe that I did and continue to do too much for her, but I don’t think I’ve spoiled her or created a demanding brat. She has always understood the value of money and that you can’t always get what you want when you want it, but if you plan for it appropriately, much of the time you’ll eventually get it. I’m also encouraging her to live at home (I’ll charge her rent when she gets a full-time job in her chosen career, of course) till she can afford to move out properly, with all the necessities. She’s dying to get her own place, but she’s willing to wait – for now!

    And you know what? DD and I have a great relationship, and I think I’ve given her a good sense of what you need to survive and thrive out there in the big bad world. I think she’s going to do just fine – and it sounds like XUP Jr will too!

  3. When I was forced to go live with my crazy aunt after my mom died she wanted to give her kids everything, everything of mine that is, as well as whatever my brothers and sister had.

  4. One of the best things that we did for our kids was to give them an allowance large enough for them to pay for everything that they needed. Amazingly, when they had to spend their money, the needed items were different that when they were spending our money.

  5. My parents bought us new school clothes every August. If we wanted anything beyond the basics (5 shirts, 3 jeans, couple of sweaters/sweatshirts, socks, underwear) we had to buy it ourselves. We got money from chores or our weekend jobs.

    I remember thinking all my friends had more things but not pestering my parents about it. I don’t know how they did that. How they taught us to be grateful for what we had. Wish I knew. It sure would come in handy now that I have an 8 year old who wants everything.

  6. It’s not much of an issue here. From an early age, if The Boy, now 9, wanted something outside the usual necessities and it was too extravagant for us, he had to earn it. (Hence he saved up for his DSI, there have also been a few Wii games that he wanted.) Seems to be working so far.

    We will be paying university tuition but I can see him needing to get a job if he wants to go out of town to school.

  7. my brother and i were talking about his the other day. we were pretty spoiled growing up – and never had to lift a finger at home. it doesn’t bode well now that we are adults – i hate housework, preferring to pay through the nose for someone to do it for me, i had to learn how to do laundry, how to cook, etc etc. that being said, we weren’t spoiled with material things – we all had jobs at a young age because our parents just didn’t care that we NEEDED the latest jeans/shoes/album whatever.
    grace has just started earning an allowance. by earning i mean scrubbing tubs, general help around the house. like Nat’s Boy, this is for the extras we just don’t feel like buying her.

  8. Geewits – I guess that’s what a lot of the parents are thinking. XUP Jr.’s school doesn’t have any after school activities because so many of the kids live out of town so they do all that stuff at lunch time, mornings or even during school hours, so she can still participate. I always gave her an allowance before she got a job – I had some idea that it would help her learn to budget and stuff. It hasn’t worked so far.

    Pinklea – Ya, my daughter is going to have to live at home for university, too and probably until she gets a full time job. I can pay her tuition, but not rent and living expenses on another place.

    Dr. Monkey – What a nice lesson in sharing that must have been for you. Not.

    Mike – I used to give mine an allowance until she got a job. She makes about $300 a month and I reckon that’s enough for her entertainment. She usually manages to spend it al in the first two weeks though. She blames her employer for only paying her once a month. Kids are hilarious.

    Christine – My parents just always said no to everything from day one, so it was an easy lesson. I was babysitting regularly at 11 and have always had some sort of job since then, so I never bothered to ask my parents for anything.

    Nat – I don’t know how kids can afford to live away from home while going to school these days. Unless their parents pay for residence or rent. A part time job is not going to pay for housing AND food and everything.

    Meanie – The allowance thing is a whole other discussion, I think. Some people believe than an allowance should not be based on chores, but should just be given as the kids’ share in the family’s money. In the same way the kids then share in the family chores. Other people think it should be payment for work done. I was pretty much in the first camp. Now I pay XUP Jr. for doing MY chores.

  9. My teen babysits his siblings for money. I don’t pay him if he does a sucky job. He’s almost 17 and still spends his pocket money on candy most of the time.

    He really doesn’t ask for much from me.

    He asked me to knit him a cunning hat like Jayne’s in Firefly. He occasionally asks for a tshirt from some webcomic he reads and we’ll get it for a birthday or Christmas. I keep him in shoes and boots (size 13 feet) and outerwear – he doesn’t care one bit about brand names. The rest of his clothes come from Frenchy’s (thrift shop).

    I don’t know what his sister’ll be like as a teen yet, but she marches to her own drum too. This week she’s read Alice in Wonderland and dressed like Alice all week – she made a pinafore from an undershirt and a white silk scarf tied around her waist with a ribbon off a Christmas gift. The blue dress beneath was a nightgown.

  10. Interesting post, I have to say what I’ve found interesting is that despite having the same parents and somewhat similar values, when it comes to money my brothers and I are a bit all over the place.

    Based on my experience and talking with my wife, I think the toughest thing is for mothers to let their sons “go”. In both our families the sons are in their mid-twenties and still dependent on their parents for much of the necessities of life.

    I don’t have kids yet, so the allowance discussion is interesting. I think Gail vaz Oxlade (host of till debt do us part) recommends an allowance based on age rather than doing work… but every family needs to work it out for themselves I suppose.

  11. Growing up in a family of 10 children we never had an allowance. We did our chores without an expectation of money knowing full well that everyone had to pull their weight. I couldn’t wait to get a part-time job to get nicer clothes, go to movies, eat-out. You know, the luxuries of life. Of course, that was back when Christ was a baby.
    I have the same expectation of my 16 year old son. He has chores that he is expected to do to pull his weight in the household. Clean his bathroom, take out the garbage, help with dinner dishes if he doesn’t help prepare it, keep his room tidy (I know… it’s his room but I want him to know the importance of being neat and organized).
    If I ask him to do anything over and above that we negoatiate a price. Although we establish a price he knows that a good job can mean a little more, and a not so great job can mean a little less. He has become quite adept at negotiating, and understanding how happy Mommy can be when a job is well done, translating to…more money.
    If he wants extra money for a movie, outing with his friends, whatever, he has to earn it… although his step-father will often try to sneak money to him behind my back.
    Anything he needs in terms of clothing, food, school supplies, etc we provide. Anything above that he needs to earn. I am really hoping he understands and apprecaites the importance of working for what you get… unlike a lot of his friends. So far that is not the case but here’s to hoping something clicks soon. So far all I hear is how hard done by he is and how lucky all his friends are because their parents give them everything they want and they can go wherever they want. Which is yet another story.

  12. My kids are little but already we are having issues with wanting toys that “everyone” else has. Some of their friends have so much, TV’s in their rooms, Nintendo Ds’s etc. What happens when they are older, they will want a car? No way. My hubby and I are trying to figure out how we are going to handle this issue. Allowance/jobs/what to buy, what they should buy. This post is very timely…it’s good to hear all the different opinions.

  13. Beyond the basics (food, shelter, clothing), we *owe* them nothing more than raising them to be people who will make the world a better place.

    That means teaching them responsibility, strong moral ethics, and the benefit of hard work.

    Sure, we can treat them every once in a while and give them something they don’t “need”, but my approach is if they want something, they have to figure out how to get it.

    To some, that may sound harsh, but I plan on raising very strong and self-sufficient children.

  14. Interesting what you say about allowance. I was given an allowance for quite a while, which overlapped with a part time job. It wasn’t ever said out loud, but it just felt like I was given it as part of family money.

    Of course, on the flip side, I had a whole list of chores to do every week as part of the family work. So there you go.

    I think some people are natural budgetters and some aren’t. I started working when I was 12 and I started doing a weekly budget when I was about 16 and wanted gas money but still needed to save for university. My mom made an off the cuff comment about setting a weekly amount and I took to it like a duck to water.

    We got good presents as kids and got some money for school clothes in the fall – I think my mom saved up the Baby Bonus for that. But the latest and greatest and trendiest? No way, unless we bought it ourselves. It irked me at the time, especially when I was really young, but now I think my parents walked that line really well.

  15. There is just so much in this post that I want to comment on and think about! Thanks for that.

    The first thing is the choice of school. I have been having an internal debate on school for my DD for a while now. Do I want her to be surrounding by other keen learners and a more focused academic environment or do I want her to be exposed to the more broad experience of life (children who may be refugees, children with learning challenges, etc.)?

    As for all the stuff we “owe” our children. That, like school, is another thing I can’t figure out. I buy her pricey outdoor clothes because her father takes her on some hard core adventuring, but that’s about it. We have a modest house that doesn’t even have a dishwasher, and have yet to actually buy ourselves a tv (we just keep using hand-me-downs from family members). While our DD can say that she’s travelled to amazing places and had amazing experiences, she still comes home talking about how “everybody” has a Wii or this or that. I need to figure out the allowance thing (i.e. is it based on chores, how much is appropriate, what guidelines should there be) for sure.

    Our DD is naturally a bit eccentric, and so like you, I think I may overcompensate on certain things to help her “fit in.”

    Oh, all so confusing! And I haven’t even had my 2nd coffee yet …

  16. my parents paid for everything for me. Until I threatened to get a real job – not working on the farm for free. Even then my Mommy insists that she still buy me the essentials – namely socks and underwear. I was really happy when I could finally get boxers after 40 years of “tightie whities” .

  17. From when I was about 12, I was given my family allowance cheque and expected to buy my own clothes. We lived in a rural home, so I didn’t go shopping or to movies etc., and had my own jobs from 16 years, typesetting for a local newspaper and part time work at the library. From early on, we kids would make supper before the adults got home from work (and of course, clean up afterwards). It was made clear that I would be on my own at 18, with no more parental support unless an exceptional emergency occured. I paid my own way through university and finally finished paying it off ten years after I completed my MSc.

    Given all of that, I suppose I am unusually self-sufficient, although certainly not any tidier than most. But I don’t think the version I grew up with is the best version, and I find it very difficult to find an appropriate balance with my own kids. I havent been good at teaching them how to do jobs for themselves and giving them regular chores. Finding balances is always a challenge.

  18. Mudmama- That’s so nice that your kids have maintained their individuality like that. My daughter was very much like that until I moved her to public school. Then I watched her change/adapt to her peer group. So, I have to believe that once she gets out of high school and doesn’t have to worry so much about fitting in, she can find her way back to being more true to herself. (PS: I miss Frenchy’s)

    Justin – I do find girls are more eager to be independent at an earlier age. Boys seem to be happy to let other people organize their lives for them.

    Salayna – I think we’re more or less in the same boat. My daughter doesn’t quite understand why her paycheque doesn’t last very long. She fritters it away even when she thinks she’s saving. Right now she needs to save for something so she gave me her bank card and I give her $20 a week spending money and the rest stays in the bank. She’s been pretty excited to see how money can accumulate when you don’t spend it. Perhaps this will be a lesson that sticks??

    MM – It’s one of the hardest things to negotiate on a daily basis. When do they have so much that they don’t appreciate anything anymore? Do you give an allowance and how much and are they allowed to spend it any way they want? Should we teach them to save some of it? Do we pay them for doing chores or are chores expected as part of being a family? All this stuff you never think of before you have kids…

    Ken – Do you have kids now? Because this all sounds really good in theory, but it’s so hard to not give your kids those extras that make their lives a little more pleasant. Music lessons for instance, I think of as an investment in the future. If they stick with it, it will always be something they have they can earn some money with. It enhances learning in other areas. And what about sports? Don’t they teach important values and skills? What about university tuition? Do we owe them that? Isn’t there a way you can provide your kids with extras while still instilling them with self-reliance?

    Megan – Well, it’s good to know that kids will eventually appreciate what their parents tried to teach them even if they resented it when they were young. It think in some instances I give XUP Jr. more than I maybe should because I’m trying to make up for her only having one parent. And then there’s the fact that she’s an only child – the more kids there are, the less there is for each of them usually.

    Julie – I know, eh? It’s a constant inner battle and one-on-one battle with her. All in all I’m happy with the school choices I’ve made. I don’t want to have to worry about her being dragged into a group of kids who are mainly interested in getting high. I don’t want to have to worry about gang activity in her school or other physical dangers that seem to be prevalent in a lot of schools these days. She’s always done a lot of other activities – skating, music, summer day camps, etc., where she’s met and interacted plenty of other kids – though not to the extent that she would have at school. The rest of it I’m still figuring out as I go along.

    Lebowski – Aw…you’re a big boy now! Good for you! That’s a whole other situation with you. My parents always figured working on our farm was something we did without pay because it was an extension of the “family chores”. But we didn’t get an allowance nor did they buy everything for us beyond the basic necessities. So we ended up working on other people’s farms, babysitting, etc. so we’d have some cash. Glad to hear your boys are comfortable now.

    Gokalie – I’ve heard a lot of parents with that philosophy – mine included. They’ll give you the basic necessities of life and you’re on your own for everything else. Then you’re cut off at 18 even from the basics. The idea of paying for university (especially for a girl) was totally absurd to my parents. I found that extremely difficult – going to school full time and working practically full time as well to pay for rent and food and tuition, etc… I also had loans that took forever to pay off. I don’t think it necessarily teaches a kid anything important to make them struggle for survival for 10 –15 years of their life. I think parents owe their kids at least a first degree. It wasn’t always that way – when you could still get a job out of high school, things might have been different. But now, without a degree or college diploma of some sort you’re going nowhere. I don’t think kids are pets that you just have to feed and keep out of the cold – I think you’re also responsible to give them as many advantages as you can afford and to set them up for success in life.

  19. Xup – yes, I have two kids, and yes, my wife and I send them to dance lessons, piano, soccer, gymnastics, etc. Like you said, those activities expand their knowledge, instil a sense of hardwork and dedication; they make the kids more rounded.

    As for university tuition, I’ll contribute – but you can damn well bet they’re going to get a part-time job and contribute as well.

    We allow the “extras” – Nintendo DS games or dinners out or big birthday parties – as a reward for their successes.

    When they get older – perhaps their teen years – they’ll probably look back and say that I was being hard on them.

    But when they become contributing members of society as adults, they won’t think that.

  20. My mother paid for my food and shelter. I seem to recall that she turned my baby bonus over to me when I was 13 (about $12 a month?) and from that point on I was responsible for clothing myself. I babysat from an early age, and was briefly self-employed as an oven cleaner. I was a natural saver. If I wanted anything, I paid for it myself. We didn’t take vacations or go on road trips unless she was dating someone who lived in another city.

  21. Mothers used to receive a cheque each month from the federal government, based on the number of kids they had. It wasn’t a lot of money (far less than today’s Child Tax Credit, though back then there were other aspects of the tax system that helped families) but for many stay-at-home moms it was the only money they ever had in their own name.

  22. My parents felt if they clothed us and fed us we should be happy and good to go. I use to hang out with a rich kid and my mother said to knock it off you will think you deserve things we can’t provide for you. I actually never thought that and the rich kids mom use to beat him with the electrical cord to their kitchen aid mixer and we didn’t own a kitchen aid mixer so…right there I was ahead of the rich kid.

  23. I guess I am not the only who is compensating for her own geeky childhood by making sure her children are outfitted in a way that makes them comfortable at school. Man, my childhood wardrobe was the absolute worst. So were my haircuts for that matter. BUT my eight-year-old’s favourite colour to wear now is black. She is happiest dressed head to toe in it. She takes after me that way, but at least I didn’t start until high school. But I’m proud because she is already showing her individuality.

    As for the child tax credit, when my youngest turns six in April, it will all be over for us. I think the baby bonus lasted a lot longer, did it not?

  24. It never occured to me, to us, to ask money from my parents as a kid. We had an allowance we worked for, and when we turned 16 we got jobs to pay for our fun. Period. End of story. They were wicked generous with meals and annual vacations and we never for a moment lacked for anything, but it was just such a different time then.

    I say this all the time: I don’t know how you parent-types do it.

  25. I completely disagree that we owe them an additional start in life. I think the sooner they realize that everything will not be handed to them on a silver platter, the more likely it is that they’ll become humans at a younger age. The ability to choose goals and work towards them is the best gift we can give kids.

    I am in complete agreement with Ken. Kids who aren’t waiting for the world to give them whatever it is they think they are “owed” is the best gift we can give to society.

  26. Ken – I figure I’ll contribute tuition, a place to live, food and other living expenses and she can maybe buy her books. One of her contributions will be that she’ll have to sacrifice the wild life of residence or a shared pad and all the freedoms that come with that.

    Zoom – Again, your mom needs to write that parenting book. I know it was a long, long time ago since you were 13, but probably $12 a month didn’t buy all that much even waaaaaaay back then.

    Alias – Har har har. I see Zoom has answered you.

    Cedar – Bwah-ha-ha. I never knew any rich kids growing up..only farm kids. We were all a bunch of hayseed hicks in hand-me-downs. (No fancy electrical kitchen appliances either)

    Finola – Why is the child tax credit over when your child turns 6?? I’m still getting it and mine’s 17.

    Ellie – One day at a time. Like everything else. I think there was a lot less to buy last generation – no electronics for one. There was also less pressure on kids to excel in school. These days without a university degree you can’t even get a job stacking shelves and the competition for a university place is very stiff.

    Jobthingy – Just keep her away from kids who think this is normal and you’ll be okay.

    Susan – You and Ken are not alone in thinking this. I know that was the norm for the last generation, but I think things are different now. University is almost a necessity if your kid wants to work anywhere but Tim Horton’s. And, working and going to school full time means you’re not going to do your best at school. Certainly I will expect my daughter to work over the summers and earn some money for books and extras, but I think I owe the opportunity for a solid education before sending her off into the world. I don’t believe in handing her everything on a platter either – which is why we keep having this argument, but I’m trying to be fair about it. I want her to do well in school both academically and socially, so I do what I can to make some things easier for her. But she also has chores to do and she works part-time and has to buy all her little extras and entertainment herself. I think that’s enough pressure for a 17-year-old. I also always think, she has a lifetime of having to work for everything – she only has a very few years left of being a child.

  27. I got an allowance, but not much. Dad was enlisted in the army, not an officer, and with 3 brothers and a sister and a stay at home mom (weren’t they all back in the 50’s?), the money didn’t go far. I was babysitting by the time I was 12, and I got a little extra every month to buy my clothes. That was back in a time when girls did not wear pants to school, and I learned to sew and made all my own clothes for school. I also made my dresses for the dances. But other than babysitting, I could only get a job in the summer, since I was supposed to focus on school during the school year.

    I made my kids pay for the upgrades. I only paid for the basics when they were on sale. And there was nothing designer about the basics. I also made sure they got summer jobs when they were old enough, and then they had to help with gas for me to drive them there. I didn’t buy them cars, and they seemed to figure out how to get places.

    Course we took them skiing in the winters and camping in the summers, and did lots of other family things with them, in addition to going to all their sports competitions and band shows.

  28. When I started university I worked at Sears and made $1.50 per hour. The total bill for university tuition, lab fees, activity fees etc came to $549. That means about 360 hours of work. Now retail pays $10 and university costs $6000. That’s about 600 hours if my math is right and that is over 1/4 of a year of full time work. As much as I like to think the kids have it too easy it is almost, not quite, but almost, impossible for a kid to pay their way through university like I could.
    My parents alsoallowed me to live at home free as long as I was in school full time and helped out at times if they agreed with me that something I wanted was important. They of course didn’t agree nearly enough, but the end result was that 3 of their 4 kids made it through university and none of us have a lengthy criminal record. I’m sorry but parents who look back a generation and say it was good enough for me so that’s all I’ll do for junior need to take a close look at what they are setting their kids up for.

  29. Do we live in the same neighbourhood? Because that sounds a lot like things around here. Except my eldest is only 7.5 and I can already see the very same conversations starting to happen. Except that she doesn’t yet have a job because I use her for child labour here at home.

    I’m conflicted on what’s best these days. When I graduated from university 13 years ago, I had been living on my own for six years and had jobs all along the way. I still left university with $50,000 in debt and a music degree and marketing diploma. Think that pays itself off quickly? Not quite.

    But, my mom was a single mom and although she remarried later on, I still had to fend for myself. No help from parents at all. That has taught me how to be self-sufficient and to be thoughtful about money.

    I can’t say I have much sympathy for kids these days – at least the ones in my neighbourhood. Their parents will pay for their degrees and let them live at home (or pay for their residence fees) and that will be that. They’ll walk out with no debt and probably make great choices about careers.

    It’s tough being artsy-fartsy in an upscale neighbourhood – and tough to keep up with the Joneses already. I hope I’m as cool and collected as you are, XUP, when my daughter hits the teen years.

    And she’ll darned well have the best iPod I can get her. Music is the most important thing! 🙂

  30. Susan – You made your kids pay for gas for driving them around? Gee, I’m starting to think I’m much to soft with my daughter. I buy her a bus pass or tickets so she can get around. My parents never drove me anywhere either, figuring I’d manage to get around somehow and I did – hitchhiking.

    Dave – I agree. For that and many other reasons we can’t possibly raise our kids the same way we were raised. University was also a luxury back in the day – now it’s a necessity. Just like say “we never had computers growing up and turned out just fine” as an excuse not to provide a home computer. Kids as young as grade 3 or 4 have to hand in typed assignments with research done on the internet.

    Cynthia – Probably your kid will grow up to have no interest whatsoever in music. Like mine and books, despite the fact that I read constantly and read to her before she was born and did everything I could to instil a love of reading in her. She used to love books – maybe this is just a rebellious phase? Anyway, as Dave (above) points out putting yourself through university these days is an almost impossible proposition –not like it was even a couple of decades ago.

    Finola – Oh ya, that thing they give parents to make up for the fact that there’s no affordable daycare…

  31. My mom was a single mom with four kids, so there wasn’t a lot of extra cash to go around — I never had an allowance, ever. If I wanted to visit friends, it was the bus or walking. I remember my mom kept a bucket of change on the counter, and in the summer, if we helped with the chores, we got to take 50 cents from the bucket and ride our bikes down to the corner store to buy candy. Good times!

    I got my first paying job when I was in Grade 9 and from that point onwards, I bought everything I needed — all my own clothes (discount and thrift stores), books, and entertainment costs. My mom, I think, paid for my bus pass and shoes. I paid for my entire university education myself.

    At the time I never thought of myself as hard done by, and still don’t. I liked my jobs and they helped me get really great jobs later on. I never had a very big social life so I rarely missed out on going out with my friends or anything like that. In those days no one had a cell phone or an iPod.

    It’s very hard to say what we will do with our own kids. Sir Monkeypants had a small allowance growing up and his parents paid for his education. They gave him a clothing allowance every year once he hit high school, and he could spend it as he wished.

    It’s definitely something we will have to work out as we get up to the teen years.

  32. At the risk of sounding like an AK*, we were poor when I was a kid. My father died when I was eight years old. My mother (who at the time spoke almost no English) was put in the unenviable position of having no husband, no income and two little kids. The only things she really knew how to do well were cooking and cleaning… so that’s how she ended up made a living.

    The point is…I don’t recall doing much as a kid except play with other neighbourhood kids. The two things I did in terms of extra-curricular activities were swimming lessons for two weeks every summer and music lessons starting at about age 8 or 9. Both had a practical aspect. I went to swimming lessons because my mother felt that if I were to fall into a river, lake, canal, pond, stream, etc (very likely, living in the Niagara Region), I could be able to save myself and not drown. I took music lessons (as part of an after-school student group program – not private lessons) because if, G-d forbid, I lost my job and couldn’t find work, I could always make some money playing music.

    I desperately wanted to study martial arts…judo, jui-jitsu, kendo…but that was simply out of the question. I am sure my little sister also had things she deperately wanted to do…skating lessons or dance lessons (no girls soccer leagues in those days).No use arguing or complaining. No amount of kvetching would get around the simple truth that there simply was no money for such stuff.

    And yet, I don’t recall ever being upset or sad about not having these things. I think I had a similar mindset as XUP Jr but only from the other end of the social spectrum. NOBODY in my neighbourhood had any of those things. I couldn’t say “Mario’s mother let’s him take karate” or “David’s mother let’s him learn how to kill people with samurai swords”. It’s just “The Way It Was” for me and all the neighbourhood kids just like me.

    I don’t know who was better off in the long run. XUP Jr, I would suspect. Ignorance is NOT bliss. It’s just ignorance. Bring poor is not noble or romantic or something to be envied. The “good old days” are most likely “rotten old days but we were kids so we didn’t know how awful they really were”. Better to be in a situation where you can enjoy the occasional “luxury” and to sometimes get what you really want instead of only what you absolutely cannot do without.

    *AK = alter kocker (Yiddish. Loosely translated as “old fart”)

  33. Actually, we didn’t charge them for all the driving. Just the tank of gas it took to drive them to work 5 days a week, and then go back and get them. Since they were making money, we explained that there were costs associated with making money, and one of them was the cost of transportation to get there and back. Figured they needed to learn early that earned income didn’t mean they could blow it on anything and everything they wanted. There were responsibilities too.

  34. Lynn – Ya, it’s a tricky thing to navigate. On the one hand you want to use what worked for you growing up, but on the other hand it’s a whole different world now (as Dave1949 also pointed out). Part-time jobs for kids are more scarce, the money they earn is disproportionate to the cost of things they need to buy, and there seems to be so much more they need than we did. I wish you and Sir Monkeypants well.

    Daniel – Dude, have you thought of getting your own blog? Ha ha –no really I appreciate your very thorough and thoughtful comment. I think if your childhood is a struggle, yes you learn some self-reliance and coping methods and stuff, but more than likely the rest of your life will be a struggle as well. Sometimes if you grow up learning to have low expectations, that’s what you achieve as an adult because you don’t know much better. If your expectations for your lifestyle are high – perhaps you will achieve more to maintain those expectations?? I don’t know. I do know that XUP Jr. will not be content to work for minimum wage like I had to for years and years. She makes more than that now and keeps looking around for jobs that pay more.

    Susan – That’s true. If/when my daughter works full time this summer, I’m going to have her kick in for her bus pass, too. I think…

  35. I don’t know either to be honest. We have RESP set up and all sorts of cash stacked away… but either way, he will need to contribute.