I know we’re living in a day and age where parents think they need to provide everything for their kids. Growing up, my parents couldn’t always afford to provide me with everything, but what I gained was a better appreciation for the things I worked for. Here are the top three things I’m thankful my parents didn’t pay for and why I won’t feel a lick of guilt if I don’t pay for them for my children.
1. Their First Car – I’m sure schlepping me back and forth to my first job was not so fun for my parents, but I worked and saved up for a few years to buy my first car. It was a beast of a vehicle that took on the likes of two deer and kept on going (with only minor repairs). Was it beautiful, shiny and new? Hell no. It was a tan Eagle Premier that I bought for $1,000 from an elderly couple in my Nana’s neighborhood. But that taste of freedom that a new car brings should come ONLY after you’ve worked hard and earned it in my opinion. I want my kids to have the satisfaction of something that is truly theirs, bought by their own sweat and hard work.
2. A College Education – My husband and I both took out loans to pay for our educations. Let me tell you that nothing lights a fire under your butt like the repayment period of a student loan looming over your head. Sure, I know people think you should start saving for your child’s education the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive, but I think a college education is something that truly needs careful consideration more than mere financial preparation. I know adults whose parents foot the bill for their college degree only to have them not use it whatsoever.
While college was a great experience for my husband and I, I know it’s not the only option. I think trade and technical schools can be of great value, as well as community colleges, certificate programs and good old fashioned work experience. I want my kids to carefully consider what they want in life before shelling out thousands of dollars on a four year school to “figure it out.” I want them to desire a future for themselves, enough to spend hours filling out scholarship applications, or working in mail rooms, or taking an apprenticeship. While I owe it to my kids to provide the tools they need, I know they will be better people for having paid for college themselves if that is the path they choose.
3. Their Wedding – When my husband FINALLY proposed after 7 years of dating I knew neither of our families were in a position to pay for it. We saved and paid for things along and along. We decided what things we wanted to spend the money on – a nice venue and what things we could do without – a limo. It was a small ceremony and reception, but it was ours. We were under no obligations to invite friends of friends, acquaintances, or business associates. All decisions were ours alone and it was a day I’ll never forget.
I remember two weeks before the ceremony dissolving into tears and asking my future husband why on Earth we were going to all this trouble for other people. See, I wanted the marriage more than a big fancy ceremony. For most couples you fear it will rain on your wedding day, but the reality is that marriage is filled with storms and you better know without a shadow of a doubt who you want by your side to ride out life’s storms. That’s the happy ending, not a wedding, but a marriage that gets stronger despite life’s trials. I want for my kids a marriage like my own, one made the way they choose because they are choosing a life partner, not an amazing party.
It’s not always easy to know what to just flat out give your kids and what you want them to work for. For me, the greatest life lessons came from working for the things I wanted the most. Only then did I truly understand the responsibility and the gift it was. What things do you want your kids to work for?