As parents, occasionally we get lucky and our children actually learn the lesson we were trying to teach them. Such was the case a few years ago, when my son was about to turn 6.
The latest installment of Shrek was about to hit theatres and my boy had his sights set on a Movie Party. As his parents, there were several factors for us to consider before this wish could be granted.
The Party – At approximately $20 per guest (with cake, RealD 3D glasses and loot bags factored in) and with 18 classmates and 5 additional friends and cousins on the guest list, this was not going to be a cheap affair.
The Present – For about 3 months prior to the scheduled soiree, he had been lobbying hard for a $200 Lego Table that was visibly on display in the Lego section at Toys R Us. Since we normally don’t spend that much on our children’s birthday presents, his grandmother had told him that she would also contribute to the cost of the expensive gift. The deal was all but sealed.
The Perk - Having exhausted myself the year before to pull off the “perfect” Pirate Party, I was also excited by how easy this year could be on me. All we had to do was show up with a cake and loot bags. No decorating. No “theme.” No clean up. When my husband suggested we provide each of the kids with change to use in the games arcade after the movie in lieu of loot bags, I feel in love with him all over again.
Were we really going to do this thing?
Since I became a parent, I’ve developed several mantras that more or less guide everything I do. When it comes to how we spend money on our kids, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should,” resonates often.
Yes, we could afford both the party and the present, but should we? Wasn’t this a slippery slope to start down at age six?
I was raised in a household that had much less disposable income than the one in which my children are being raised. As such, I am immensely grateful for the comforts and choices we can afford. But I also struggle to instill in my kids a respect for money and an appreciation for its value.
This was definitely a teachable moment.
After much debate, we decided to involve our son in the conversation. To let him understand the choices before us. Either we invite fewer kids to the party and buy him the Lego Table OR invite everyone to the party and not buy the Table. We explained - as best we could to a child of his age - that we had a certain amount of money set aside to spend on birthdays for him and his sister and this was more than we had planned.
Without hesitation, he chose his friends. Bias aside, my son is a very kind soul so I was not a bit surprised that this was his first response. But I also understood that he was six and I wasn’t sure he truly had a handle on what this choice meant. So we explained again the options he had. We asked again if he understood. He told us again that he wanted all of his friends there. His decision made, we printed up 23 invitations and I (secretly) braced for the fallout when the Table was missed.
The morning of his birthday arrived and there was no Lego Table. By mid-morning – still tantrum free - we were headed to the theatre and he was nearly vibrating with excitement. We arrived to a lobby full of his friends and the party went off without a hitch.
As parents, occasionally we get lucky and our children actually learn the lesson we were trying to teach them. Sometimes, we get real lucky and they learn a few lessons we had not even intended.
You see, most of the party goers gave my son money for his birthday that year. In fact, he got enough to buy the Lego Table himself. So the following weekend, we headed to Toys R Us and he nearly sprinted to the Lego section. He politely told the sales clerk that he was there to buy the Lego Table. I will never forget the look of sheer satisfaction on his face when he handed his Cars wallet to the cashier that day.
Did he get what we were trying to teach him about being mindful with your money?
I believe he did and a whole lot more.