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Needing Versus Wanting

I keep asking the kids what they want for Christmas. Since they don’t watch much TV — and the TV they do watch doesn’t have commercials — they haven’t given me much to work with. The big one wants a Lalaloopsy doll. The little one wants a purple Pillow Pet. We’ve taken care of both requests. (Or my in-laws and sister, respectively have taken care of them.) As for other stuff? I’m just winging it. I’ve purchased stuff I think they may like.

This lack of Christmas list is one of the things I am proud of when it comes to my kids for several reasons. First, because — at least until now — I have met all their needs. They have clothing, a roof over their heads, food. If they actually need something that they don’t have I can go out and buy it. There are unfortunately many people out there who can’t say the same. People who don’t have the means (for whatever reason) to meet their kids’ most basic needs. I think about those people often, especially at this time of year.

The second reason is that I think I am raising unspoiled kids. I often say that my kids are spoiled. There’s very little they don’t have — that’s true. However, they appreciate what they have and don’t ask for things they don’t really need. Take Big Girl. Unbeknownst to me all her classmates already have Lalaloopsy dolls. Big Girl didn’t run home and beg for one or badger me when we went to a store. She waited until I asked her if she wanted anything and then she told me. (I must admit that at these kids very, very rarely ask for anything when we are out shopping. Aside from having to corral the little one my shopping trips are relatively stress-free.) So yes, I am very proud that I am raising two kids who not only understand the value of money, but don’t expect toys and games and stuff just because.

How did I do it? I never got into the habit of buying just because. I always explained that things cost money and equated the thing with how many words I had to write or how many hours my husband had to work to buy whatever we were talking about — a new car, a jacket, another pack of crayons. I told them stories about my own childhood. I explained that I got clothing twice a year in September and at Christmastime. I impressed upon them that if they didn’t take care of their toys, they wouldn’t get replacements. I even let Big Girl “forget” her stuffed cat at a store. Yes, I saw it on the floor, but it was her responsibility, especially since I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea for it to leave the car. I’m not horrible, though. I grabbed it when she wasn’t looking and didn’t mention it until, at home, she started crying that Black Cat was gone. I then pretended to call the store and told her the store was mailing it back to us. And then I made her wait a few days to get it back. Mean? Maybe, but very useful. She remembers that experience to this day and cautions her little sister against bringing toys out of the house.

Anyway, I’m really proud of those kids and of the parenting that brought them to where we are now. They are a gift that keeps on giving every day of the year. And the fact that they get the difference between needs and wants? That’s just the ribbon on the package.

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