I really enjoy spending time with kids. My “nieces” (who are 2 and 4) bring me delight. Some of the kids I’ve worked with as an Educational Assistant are inspirational and absolutely amazing. When I taught preschool, I loved to talk with the kids because 3 and 4 year-olds know so much and their thoughts about the world are very insightful.
My boys are articulate, interesting kids. I generally enjoy spending time with them. However, there are times when I wonder about the job I am doing raising them. There are times that they seem to feel entitled to things that are, well, things they aren’t entitled to.
As a kid, there were certain things I knew that I could expect and that I would have what I needed, but not necessarily what I wanted. My parents budgeted carefully, and when I was in middle school, I got a “clothing allowance.” From this allowance, I was expected to purchase what I needed. Make-up came from my clothing allowance. Additional personal care items (such as a specific brand of shampoo) also came from that allowance. And then all my clothing was supposed to be purchased with that money. If I wanted something that I didn’t have enough money for, I could either use my own money (babysitting money, allowance money or gift money), or I could wait. There were some rare exceptions – like when the dog ate my brother’s shoes and Mom and Dad gave him the money to buy new ones.
There was one other exception that I remember: buying me a blazer for a dance in 7th grade. I was feeling very out-of-place in middle school and was having a lot of difficulty fitting in. I was smart, not smart enough to be at the top of my class, but just smart enough to stick out. I remember speaking with several girls that I had known forever and found out that they were all wearing blazers to the dance. I didn’t own a blazer. It left me feeling even more out-of-place. I don’t remember what I told my parents, but I know that my father told my mother to take me to get a blazer.
I remember feeling shocked, grateful and very loved. Blazers were expensive. For some reason, I have $75 stuck in my head as what it cost and this was 1982. This was a lot of money and it wasn’t coming out of my clothing allowance, because I didn’t have any money in my “fund.” This was something special, and I knew it.
But I wasn’t entitled to the blazer. Just because I wanted it and everyone else had one didn’t mean that I got one.
This is where I think that kids today are spoiled (my boys are definitely included). They have many activities that we didn’t have when we were kids. We weren’t “over-scheduled” with activities like some of them are. We didn’t eat out or get fast food on a regular basis (it was a special occasion thing). And just because everyone else had something, didn’t mean that we got the same.
I wouldn’t say that my boys are over-scheduled. Michael has his soccer (2 days a week during outdoor season – practice on Friday and games on Saturday and 1 day a week during indoor season – games on Saturdays). He sings in the men’s choir at school (which generally meets 1 morning a week before school) and he will be starting in the band this year. He will play the flute and has instruction after school every Monday and every other Thursday. For band and choir, they are at the school and either before or after, so all I have to do is drop him early or get him late. We carpool to/from school as he is open-enrolled at his school and there isn’t a bus. During the week, there isn’t a lot of extra running around. We do have some crazy days ahead with a special Saturday choir rehearsal (the boys from the 2010-2011 choir were invited to sing at a Volunteer Appreciation Event at the Museum of Nature and Science) then 2 soccer games (back-to-back) and a Band information meeting/Instrument Rental. Yes, all on the same day. And then the following Saturday with the choir performance at the Museum of Nature and Science (Denver) and then a soccer game immediately following. But generally, things are not that hectic.
David has band and drama activities. He has band during school hours, so I don’t consider this to be an “extra” activity. David plays the tenor saxophone. Last year, David played in the Jazz Band and that required rehearsal 1 day a week after school. Drama is dependent upon a number of things. First, David would have to audition and get a part. David auditions for Missoula Children’s Theater productions through the Parker Rec Center. He LOVES doing these productions. But they are intense. The kids audition on Monday night from 4 pm to 6 pm and then if they get a part, they would rehearse (depending upon the part) Monday from 6:30-8:30 pm and Tuesday-Friday from 4:00 pm – 6 pm and/or 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. On Saturday, they rehearse starting at 10 am and do 2 performances, one at 2 pm and one at 5 pm. Then they are done. It is a crazy week, but it is a lot of fun for the kids. If David does a different production, like one at school, rehearsal is usually for an hour 1-2 days a week after school. And they rehearse for 6-8 weeks or so.
The kids want to do these activities, and Chris and I want them to be involved. They have enough to keep them out of trouble, but not too much that they can’t enjoy being kids. But here is where the entitlement issue comes in. There are times when they believe, truly believe, that they are entitled to something that they aren’t. For example, Michael is growing. He needed new shin guards for soccer. They are necessary for him to play and not get hurt. But he isn’t entitled to get the “coolest” pair. He got a reasonably priced pair and he will hae to be happy with that.
David is also growing. Tons. He had a pair of Crocs that he wears to take the dog out (since we are in an apartment, we have to walk our dogs. David walks Sugar and Michael walks Kirby). But the Crocs (after 2 years) have additional holes in them (from Jibbittz that fell out). He has been making due. Last week I took him to buy a new pair. He had been saying that he wanted some and with the old ones not keeping his feet protected and dry, I thought he should be able to have a new pair. Michael got upset. He was at school when we went and he didn’t get a new pair. He didn’t, in my opinion, need a new pair. He has several pairs (at least 2 that he picked out and 1-2 that were David’s that don’t fit). Just because David got some, Michael felt that he was entitled to a new pair. He was quite angry with me because I said he didn’t need a new pair. In another couple of weeks, I’ll take a good look at his Crocs and see if he needs a new pair, but with his difficulty in accepting that he wasn’t entitled to a pair, I’m not rushing.
Then there was dinner the other night. Soccer practice is on Friday night from 5-6 pm. It is about 15 minutes from our place. Chris doesn’t cook and we are generally starving by the time we finish. So, last year we started pizza night. I can feed all of us, with leftovers for lunch on Saturday, with pizza from Little Caesars for $15. It is a fairly good compromise regarding eating fast food and not spending a fortune. Anyway, I had told Michael that we would stop to get pizza after practice. He was good with that. However, at some point the kids began talking about shakes at Carl’s Jr. And Michael decided that was what he wanted. I like Carl’s Jr. But to feed the 3 of us (Chris was out-of-town), it would be easily $25. For the 3 of us to have pizza – $10 (with leftovers). That is a major difference. And I’m unemployed. So, I said no. Michael wanted Carl’s Jr. and felt he was entitled to it. He wasn’t. He protested by not talking to me and then refusing to eat pizza (when he is angry he often doesn’t think about who his refusal is hurting – I could care less if he eats pizza or not – he isn’t going to starve – and he isn’t punishing me by not eating pizza). I did try to compromise and offered to let him run into the store and get some vanilla ice cream to make shakes, but he would have nothing to do with homemade shakes. So, he didn’t get the ice cream and we wouldn’t make shakes.
Another time he told me that I “owed” him a soda with caffeine. I asked him why he thought that and he replied, “because you wouldn’t let me get one last time.” I told him that I didn’t owe him any soda and that if he wanted some, that was not the way to ask.
Writing all of this, I’ve realized that it is more Michael feeling he is entitled, than it is David. I wonder if it is a younger child thing, a Michael thing or the way I am raising him thing. I do know that I am going to have to take care of this – and do it quickly before he becomes more of a monster than he already is (and I say that with great love and fondness, usually). But I can’t figure out how he became that way in the first place.
Fair does not mean the same. It does mean that there should be some balance between what a child needs and what a child gets. And children often need different things. David needed new shoes and Michael needed new shin guards. They are not the same, but they are equivalent. That is the best we can do: try to make give children what they need, not what they demand, not what they feel they are entitled to, but what they need.
And just for the record, I don’t think that the clothing allowance division between my brother and I was totally fair. We both got the same amount of money for our clothing allowances, but I had to purchase make-up with my allowance. And then there were shoes: how many pairs of shoes does a boy need? How about a girl? However, the system worked and stopped a lot of fighting between me and my mother over my buying clothes.