Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On Kids and Entitlement

"At this moment I believe God is asking us for more simplicity" 
- Pope Francis

Simplicity has been on my mind for, oh, the last 3 years. Doesn't it seem like I should have it all wrapped up and tied with a bow by now?

I don't. And I could prove it in a thousand different ways.

No matter how much I want to want less, it's a concept I embrace more in theory than in practice.
But maybe that wanting is a good enough place to start. Maybe that bone-deep itch to slough off the excess is like the mosquito bite on my right ankle - the more I scratch it, the longer it sticks around.

A few nights ago I cracked up all the way through this article, "53 Things Only '80's Girls Can Understand." 

I remembered every single "Thing" on the list except for one (what the bizz is a My Child doll??)

It took a full 24 hours for it to sink in that out of all those "things", the only one I had ever owned was a Caboodle, procured sometime around 1990, an item I miss to this day. (R.I.P.)

I'd watched the shows and read the books, but I'll be danged if I never held the coveted bottle of Eau de Cat Pee Electric Youth in my hot little claws. And the see-through jelly phone? A pipe dream. I didn't even bother.

No Care Bears, no Rainbow Brite, no Strawberry Shortcake. No Pound Puppies or Little Ponies.

I did have Barbies and a knock-off Cabbage Patch kid named Jonathon, perpetually clad in a blue and white sweatsuit I inexplicably and subconsciously recreated for myself years later in Jr. High Home Economics class.

My closet had no pinstriped jeans (finally fixed that back in 2008) and nary a jelly shoe to be found. Don't even talk to me about Esprit or Benetton. Too painful.

The strange thing is, though I pined for all of those things, I never expected them. I felt no sense of despondance or neglect over not having them. My self-esteem didn't suffer. I knew I was fully loved.

I understood, on some fundamental level, that those things simply weren't in the cards for my family. I understood from a young age that we didn't roll that way. I always knew our lifestyle was born of necessity, but looking back, I wonder if it wasn't more than that.

30-odd years later, on a muggy night in August, I struggle to decide what to pack for my trip to a third-world country. The irony isn't lost on me.

I wouldn't dare hold myself up as some model citizen, a paragon of self-restraint or contentment.

But this sort of epiphany couldn't have come at a better time, when having walked willingly into yet another monumental pay-cut, our every penny is pinched until it cries out.

I'm better for having the childhood I had. I still struggle with selfishness and greed, but I never grew accustomed to having the "next big thing". I didn't learn by osmosis to tie my self-worth to a toy. These childhood lessons made being an adult a little easier.

I'm not an expert on anything (except salsa and maybe gingham). Maybe I could have titled this "How Not to Raise Entitled Children" and it would have been more pin-worthy. The problem is, I don't really know. I amaze and confound myself daily with how little I know about parenting. I'm busy dodging discussions of $60 Lego sets and American Girl dolls and it's all a little terrifying.

But I think there are some lessons here.

Whether by necessity or pure choice, we can opt out of gift-wrapping the lie for our kids that they need the thing that "everyone else" has. We can instill lessons about necessity and budgeting without ever saying the words. We can show them the thrill of an unexpected surprise when they land Ball Gown Barbie then knock their socks clean off when we painstakingly sew floor-length flannel nightgowns for that doll that match their own. (You rocked it, Mama!)

We have a say in the way all of this goes down, and if we don't want a fourteen year old hell-bent on having the newest version of the iPhone, then maybe there are things we can do right now to steer ourselves around that land mine.

I agree with the Pope. I think God is calling us to simplicity right now, just like he was 30 years ago and 300 years ago.

It took some time, but we're finally listening.
(And so are our kiddos, whether they realize it or not.)


  1. Yes. I get this. Nodding, laughing, sighing all the way through.
    (P.S. I had the Esprit bag but only because my great-aunt and great-uncle got it for me for Christmas. Also, my feet were too wide for jelly shoes.)

  2. Yes, yes! Head nodding over here! I grew up the same way and look around at children today who expect e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. And I wonder how in the world did my parents do it? I don't remember any big conversations or bitterness ...it just was what it was! I'll be pondering this :)

  3. I think it's a big fat heart issue. When we raise our kids knowing they deserve nothing good because they are desperate sinners just like their parents, then there's less room for entitlement.

  4. I get it as well. God's been calling me to simplicity for a few years and I am trying to do what I can to rid my life of so much that is so unneeded. And only takes up valuable time. I want a cleaned up life. My car is actually full to the gills with a load I'll be dropping off at Goodwill tomorrow. Loading up to haul away today did show me that I am getting there. I have very little that I am not actually using now. One more car load. Maybe I can load that up for a haul away next week. :) My son and dil just sold 99% of what they owned, only keeping essentials. They say it feels very freeing. They can now concentrate on their new ministry. My son is no stranger to having little as we sold it all a couple of times when he was growing up although I believe he fell into the American Dream crap trap.

  5. I had Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Technically, I still have them...or pieces of them. My daughters like to pop their limbs out. I had Little People, too, so my childhood was definitely happier than yours. j/k

    But, seriously, no animal barrettes or scrunchies for you? C'mon. Your mama sews. I know you had some ding-dang scrunchies, even if they were homemade.

    My husband grew up harder than I, and I really respect the work he's done in and with our children. He's taught them to say: "Thank you." I tend to more so let it slide when they whine for something different to eat...or one more adventure...or one more toy. Not that I GIVE it to them--don't misunderstand--just that I tend to slack on correcting...on saying, for example: "Be GRATEFUL for the food on your plate." Or: "Be grateful for what we did earlier, today." They still have so much, but they have started to respond with gratitude.

    I hope all goes well with your trip.

    1. Ok, yes. You got me! I had scrunchies and barrettes. And chap-stick.
      I was referring to the "things" as the toys. My bad.
      But I didn't have a single ding-dang jelly bracelet, that I can recall. And THAT is downright scandalous!

  6. Amen! What hit me was how you said we dreamed of having these things but never expected them. I struggle too with how our children "need" things and all too often I bend and give it to them. It's definitely not healthy for them! Thanks for the good read!

  7. I always resented the fact that my mom made all my clothes and I never had a stylish haircut growing up as a kid. We never took fancy vacations like my friends. I now understand as all my friends are swimming in college debt. I look at my childhood so much differently as an adult. I was loved, nourished and had more than enough essentials. I never realized that my parents were saving all their extra money so my brother and I could go to college without financial worry. I never knew how important that was. I was only worried about Nike sneakers and cool jeans. I don't have kids but I sit back and criticize my friends and sibling in laws for all the "crap" they buy their kids. I'm sure it's so much easier said than done to say no to your kids. I think you have a great mentality!

  8. Very well said. I, too, am inching toward the itch of simplicity. We are building our own house (no contractor or anything, just my husband, myself and a friend now and then) and I want to not take so much of the stuff we now have....only essentials....

  9. I know that itch as well. Thank you so much for writing this post, bang on sister. Sadly the only difference between the 80's and now - I do believe people lived more within there means (I hate to use the word class) We live in a middle class world or lower where everyone pretends they can afford it all!

  10. I nodded the whole way through this - Good gravy, I could not agree more! Especially on not knowing the answers. But the little ways we lay the quiet groundwork really do matter long-term and I'm doing a whole lot of banking on that;)

  11. I still have my "My child" doll as well as a purple caboodle...Loved your post, and agree with it all...why is parenting so hard?

  12. I had plastic charms, the perfect side pony-tail, a cabbage patch doll named Gertrude, after my great grandmother, scrunchies, the sugary deliciousness of the cereals, a caboodle that proudly still sits in the bathroom closet at my parents' house, several swatch watches, smelling erasers, strawberry shortcake dolls, an easy bake oven, a glo-worm, jelly bracelets galore, jelly shoes, LAgear shoes, a boom box, little people, lip smackers, care bears, t-shirt clips, and last but not least...a see through phone in my room.

    and btw....denise huxtable was 100% my style icon. for a white girl, i very close resembled her in 1990 and 1991. I'm not even kidding.
    friends told me so.

    We're not doing everything right over here as far as materialism goes, but our hearts are to create balance...our hearts are to give our kids a biblical worldview....we're making mistakes...we're caving and buying things that "everyone else" has.....but we're also giving and teaching them to give and we're saying no to plenty of things and we're teaching them to trust God for provision.

    balance is the sought after thing.

    1. OMW, you would have made the BEST BFF! Most of my friends had, on average, one-to-five of the "things", so I got to live vicariously through them. And I'm sure it goes without saying that none of them turned out to be spoiled brats or uber-materialistic. They are amazing women now and I'm still friends with many of them.

      I so want to time travel back and twirl my side pony while I chat on your see-through phone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  13. Sounds as if we were raised in much the same way. I owned a knock off Cabbage Patch and knock off Barbies as well. I only ever owned one "real" Barbie and I remember every detail about her due to the fact she was special and I didn't have 20 others like her. My kids do have much more than I ever had growing up, but they are still far from the kids who "have everything". I pray the seeds we are planting in them will pay off into their adulthood. I pray...

    1. I'm sure you were like me - you wouldn't DARE give Barbie a haircut! That always scandalized me... :)

  14. "I amaze and confound myself daily with how little I know about parenting."
    Even though we're past the child-rearing years -- and our kids are starting to have kids (first grandchild on the way!) -- we still often feel like we're walking through a minefield as we learn to navigate this phase: being parents of adults. We've pretty much just adopted the motto "Only when asked!"...whether it's in reference to advice, help, etc. It's a fine line, and we struggle when we see our "kids" struggle. At times we agonize over whether we taught them well enough, in one area or another.
    We made choices, much like you've done, to live on less, to live more simply, in order to have more time together as a family and more time with others.
    We made lots of other choices, too, that set them apart from their friends: 1 hour tv per day, no video games in our home, outside playtime was curtailed when they were fighting amongst themselves ("if you can't get along with each other, you can't get along with anyone else"), no allowances or any kind of payment for household chores since it was their home too and everyone was expected to do their part...
    What we've come to understand is that we did the best we could with the knowledge we had, looking to the Lord for wisdom, and yes failing miserably at times. Going back to the kids to apologize when we made mistakes -- sometimes glaring mistakes -- and asking their forgiveness.
    One thing we've been so pleased to see, though, is their ability to let go of the unnecessary.
    We've seen it with both our kids. When our son and his wife moved across the country last year, they let go of almost everything, even that which held sentimental value.
    Our daughter and son-in-law paid off their not insignificant college loans in less than one year by committing to live on one salary and devote the entirety of the other toward debt reduction. They also "cleaned house" and sold whatever wasn't useful or necessary in order to have even more to put toward the debt.
    They're committed to living within their means, and in a way that allows them to reach out and help others.
    How we live often shouts louder than the words we speak. So hang in there, keep "editing" out those things in your life as God shows you the need to pare down.

    1. I won't post anything except this: I could've written your comment word for word when it comes to our child raising years. I'm still shopping thrift stores for things we really think we need and are glad to only pay a fraction because the "new" has been worn off. I'm thankful that still choosing to live on less allows us the ability to minister to others.

  15. I love this. My parents raised us much the same way. We never had a big conversation about budgeting and money or about how we don't get everything we want... and yet I grew up knowing it, not resenting it, and feeling like it was perfectly acceptable, appropriate, and enough. How do we pass that to our kids?

  16. oh lady, i love you
    i never had a caboodle, and it didn't kill me; i did have some cabbage patch dolls, though, and played with them into my early teen years.

    i never felt entitled, yeah, i would pout and whine or beg or whatever, but deep down, i knew that just because i wanted something didn't mean i should have it... So why now, at age 38 do i feel this nagging drive to get and acquire and accumulate? ouch! do i blame pinterest? blogs? tv? prob just my own sinful, selfish nature... ick

  17. After raising 5 kids I can unequivocally say this is true and the most important lesson is that they are not entitled to anything but love!

  18. OH MY WORD!! I have a my child doll! Yes, I still have her.

    Going through that list was fabulous. I had several of the things- a caboodle, handiest thing ever. jelly bracelets, and yes, I had "Electric Youth". My grandmother also gifted me several cabbage patch dolls. After waiting in line for hours of course.

    What caught me the most looking at all those items, not if I had them or not, but remembering the friends I had at that time, and sharing those fun memories with them.

    Thank you for that!

    1. TOTALLY agree about the friends thing! I was blessed to have friends with Get in Shape Girl, that cool pink "boom box", the Le Clic camera...and of course Electric Youth!

  19. I had some of the items on the list and when it came to fashion brands my mom didn't kid around I got everything my little heart desired. Why? Because she had two outfits growing up and I think she got to enjoy being a teenager through me. Now don't get me wrong she had an extremely happy childhood even though the stories she tells me kind of breaks my heart. But she swears she didn't feel like she was lacking as her parents loved her so much.

    And I think thats the key. My parents loved me from the moon and back and they installed a good moral compass. I can look back now and realize I had a very blessed childhood but I never felt entitled to material items. It might have been because like most couples my parents struggled and it evened out as I got older. So by the time I was a teenager I was humble enough not to assume I'd get a thing. My son was raised the same. Heck to this day he prefers to buy his clothes at Goodwill and refuses to carry a smart phone.

    But are we talking about frugality or simplicity?

    I believe in simplicity its something I've worked on my whole life. My husband and I are a week from moving to Portland and we are bringing a couple suitcases and his motorcycle. When I get there. I'm buying that $1000 dollar industrial shelf BECAUSE I CAN. But we will buy very little we plan on living in a top quality studio in the middle of it all. Do you see where this is going? Simplicity for me in this phase of my life does not equate frugality and I do believe they are intertwined but different distinct ideas.

    I like my parents and my son where raised to be frugal (from need more than anything else). But it did create a mind set towards simplicity. I start to feel icky when I have to many material items around me. SO I'm saying all this to possibly relieve your mind. Being on the road you are on now. Being forced to be frugal grows a need for simplicity. Just consider yourself a bud of a flower and someday because of the road you are on now you will embrace simplicity as easily as breathing.

  20. Yes, well said. My daughter feels a bit slighted. She insists she's the only one in her class who doesn't have cable TV. She didn't understand why until I actually explained the cost in real way she could understand. Every once in a blue moon I'll feel bad that my kids don't have something or can't do something and then I come back to reality. We have SO much to be thankful for.

  21. Laughed so hard at your Eau de Cat Pee Electric Youth line. I didn't have that, but still have my My Child doll and totally wish I still had all those charms I used to have.

    I rarely comment, but truly love your writing. It is often exactly what God is talking to my heart about, too...it is encouraging to read someone else is having these crazy, counter-cultural thoughts.

    My kids are all under 5, and at this point none realize they can ask for things for their birthdays, etc. I wonder when it will change...when they go to public school and have more friends? When they figure out their momma wants everything in Target??? For whatever reason it hasn't happened yet, and I am thankful. John Calvin said our hearts are idol factories, and I see that mine is for sure. Thankful for a God who is showing me the dirt in me and continuing to just ask Him to make me and our family to look more like Him....trusting Him to finish the work He began, even on the hard days.

  22. I didn't have many of those things but I DID have a My Child! (And it looked nothing like me but I wanted red hair SO BAD...)

  23. I remember wanting a pair of Guess denim overalls SO badly in junior high I couldn't stand it...everyone had a pair. There were four of our mouths to feed, and my mom stayed home. I remember them telling me no, but that I was more than welcome to buy them with my own money. Ends up, when I had enough babysitting money saved up, I just couldn't spend it all on one pair of Guess overalls! Mom took me to Weiners, where I bought an off brand, and I'm sure a few other things for the same price! My little sister and I played with Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Bright and a whole host of other things, but I promise it was because my mom shopped for Christmas all year long, putting everything on layaway. Finding the balance is hard. I hope we're tipping the scale in the right direction with our kiddos.

  24. Barbie and Skipper received haircuts from me.


    I had a lot of stuff- cabbage patch dolls, Barbie stuff, caboodles, forenza sweaters, nice jeans.. But I always really appreciated what my mom bought for me. I knew she and my dad worked really hard. I think they overdid it because they were both raised poor.

    My mom was raised with eight other siblings- they lived in the St. Paul projects for years. My dad had paper shoes as a little boy. I think they just wanted to give us what they never had.

    Having said that, I think it depends on the kids. I have family members who give their very spoiled kids way too much- and the kids are like bottomless little pits who are never happy, just want the next item, but can't be bothered to care for what they own.

    Then we have the sweet only children who are grateful, thoughtful and polite. Are great at sharing and give their toys away and tell me " when you are old, you will live in my house."

    That's where the parenting comes in, I think. And chores, helping out around the house and community.

  25. Oh, man. I never had name brand anything. Kmart was our shopping place. I'm so thankful now, too, because I raised my kids to shop at thrift stores and to squeal over bags of hand-me-downs. I still struggle with wanting more than I need, with coveting my neighbor's amazing kitchen, and with wishing my house was perfect. You're right, though, slowly but surely we're listening.
    p.s. I did get a pair of Tretorn tennis shoes with my own babysitting money in 8th grade. woot woot!

  26. One summer my Daddy marched my brand loving pre-teen self to K-Mart to buy my whole summer wardrobe. I died a thousand deaths. But. I'm thankful for his knowledge of just how much we had and how much I didn't understand. I actually did not die. In fact, I had a good summer.

    I've been wanting to comment for a while now. It's just that your posts make me think. And then after I've thunk it seems too late to come back and say something. Here's the thing: most of my adult life I've fought God tooth and nail about my hand-me-down, second-hand things. And something is happening. This raw place is growing in my heart that shouts it's still so much more than I need. My selfishness cringes and wants to fight harder. God's grace whispers that this will not go away, this tension of living by daily bread instead of excess. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you and that I'm trying to figure this whole living in the tension thing out.

  27. i've never, ever, posted 2 comments for the same post. until. now.

    my husband and i watched as his sister and her husband worked their hind-ends off trying to give their 2 kids everything they never had growing up. we listened as the niece and nephew whined and begged for more stuff to go with their new stuff they had just unwrapped during our family christmas celebration...

    we vowed we'd never be that kind of parents! well, it is hard. and we don't have it figured out, and so we just keep trying. trying to model an attitude of contentment. we both grew up with very little, and where i struggle now is that i can make something out of nothing, and get a thrill by doing it-- you know a hodge podge of gap & j crew and old navy and ann taylor all put together for $12 and looks like $300...
    i have more thoughts, but fear i'm rambling... just know that the truth you put on your blog speaks to me, and i print your posts and share them with friends, cuz you are articulate and mostly concise, and when not concise, then humourous :)

  28. I don't remember worrying too much about what I had or didn't have. I was too busy worried about riding my bike, playing in my fort, etc. I did get ballerina Barbie, and a stuffed monkey. Even through my teen years, nobody seemed to be focused on, what we had to have other than the Adidas bag, and Nike running shoes.

    Our world did not seem media driven except for the adds on TV drawing near to Christmas. We were told by our parents to make our own fun and essentially to get lost. We did not have parents getting gadgets to babysit us, to get out of their hair. We got on our bikes, and played.

  29. Hi Shannon!
    I just found your blog and wanted to say that I have fallen madly in love with your words, your photographs and your heart! You have such a beautiful family and lovely talent!

    Seriously, wow!

    I have a small blog as well, www.diapersdaisies.com, if you wanted to check it out.

    For now, I am going to continue hitting "older post" on your blog until I cannot read anymore!

    Thank you!

  30. Love this blog. so. much. Just a few days ago I was checking out a new mall near us, trying to buy my girls some new school shoes and found myself so frustrated at constantly having to say, "No! Not those! They're $45!!" And making the 2 of them choose the same style so I could get the buy one/get one deal. I seriously felt like I was somehow depriving them. Of $45 shoes. Seriously.

    What I need to remember is that we are SO BLESSED to be able to buy them shoes at all. And they will not be scarred by having off-brand shoes. I want them to "know they are fully loved". And they don't need $45 shoes for that. Thanks for the reminder.