Many of us as adults have this understanding. Not enough money and we have to go without until we do. It can often be difficult explaining this to children and as parents we can feel the frustration. We’re doing our best and following our beliefs to get our children moving on in the world with the realisation that life isn’t about ‘Keeping up with the Jones.’ But we’ve all been children and can no doubt have that empathy with them.
It was my daughters first day back at school and she started secondary school in September. The Primary school she went to was not about ‘Keeping up with the Jones.’ A small school with the ethos of fairness, kindness and equality. It was not ‘show offy’ in the slightest. But she’s now at an all girls secondary, a much bigger school and the girls are all trying to find their feet. Not quite young children anymore but not that age of independence. They’re not teens, they’re what I class as tweens, they’re in between. Forming their beliefs about the world around them. And naturally one of the things that young girls and indeed boys enjoy doing is showing off to their mates about what they have and what they got for Christmas.
I read an article a while back about parents not posting pictures on social media of presents around the Christmas tree as it might make other parents feel bad. I could see the reasoning behind it but I generally have friends who enjoy posting their children’s presents on social media and I would say that many of us are on the same wavelength with what we can and can’t provide. Christmas is about festivities and enjoyment and no doubt if any of us were aware of our friends struggling at Christmas, we’d be mindful. It doesn’t take much to work that out.
Children on the other hand.
I thought I’d done well to provide for three children this Christmas. As pointed out in other blogs, it’s a struggle every year (same as for other parents) and sometimes making sure the children have a great Christmas or the best I can provide has caused burn out. This year I was clear in my thinking.
I’ve talked in my previous blog about the struggle with teens and gadgets. How it’s difficult to monitor screen time and have time together as a family. Single parent family, it falls on my shoulders and my shoulders are only so wide. I’m not complaining, I do have a boyfriend, my life is good. But the running of my house and providing for my children that falls solely down to me, particularly as our family circumstances completely changed the end of 2014 and then completely changed again the beginning of 2016. I found myself completely playing mum and dad. Going from single parent to sole parent is a big change – not only do you have to deal solely with life and problems but money becomes tighter still. And don’t forget mid-way through the year I experienced job loss. A lot of changes in one year – I can confirm in many ways for the better.
I decided this Christmas to battle the gadgets and go for a Christmas providing for the teens and tween with presents that catered to their other hobbies and interests. To be fair I spent less money and had much bigger piles of presents and all of them, they were happy with the presents that they got. We had a lovely Christmas.
But my daughter went to school yesterday.
“My friend has a lot more Zoella products than me… My friend she got…”
And she started reeling off the list of presents that her friend had got, lots of expensive gadgets and designer brands! There is no way I can compete and as an adult there is no way that I want to compete. And to be honest when I look back to my own childhood, I’d considered that she’d done very very well…
We live in a town where we have a Foodbank and a Toybank. My daughter is aware but in her circle of friends she doesn’t see it. In her young mind, she got less than her friends.
But then I started to think about the area that we live in. The divide between the people who need the Toybank then the people who don’t and I thought about the people like myself who are the ‘just managing’ and I thought there must be more like me. So I explained to my daughter that nobody knows a financial situation in a household, people are often working extremely hard for not huge pay and debt in the country is rife! I started to think of the lessons we’re teaching our youngsters if we’re just managing and pushing ourselves beyond our limits to provide ‘stuff’ ‘stuff’ that depreciates in value and is often cast aside. I’ve explained that life isn’t just about ‘stuff’ that life should be more than just that, but try explaining that to an 11 year old. An 11 year old who no doubt loves the Christmas presents she has got (one was a sewing machine) but is just feeling that peer pressure. No doubt a couple of years down the line and she’ll have a greater understanding and appreciation of how lucky she is in many ways but right at this moment she wants an IPhone 7! Oh and to have her hair dyed because her friend does it and to go to the nail bar for acrylics! It won’t be happening as I’m already concerned about the rising generation of mini Kardashians – they’re 11! I’ve talked in the past about ‘capping the wealthy’ helping the needy. I’m reaching the conclusion that maybe children should be capped at Christmas because the competitive ‘stuff’ ‘keeping up with the Jones’ it starts young. And it’s teaching them just that.
We got over it, life goes on, it’s always best to get the issues out as a family and talk about it. Then my son went to school today. He’s fourteen. The same problem, but it wasn’t really a problem ‘my wealthy friend got..’ However, he’s that bit older and has been fortunate enough to master making his own money. For him it was easily dealt with, he easily shrugged it off. He’s happy with what he’s got, he’s modest enough to know he’s smart enough to make his own. Just as I’m sure my daughter will learn in time. In his words… “Sometimes it’s better to get a bit less in life as it makes you appreciate what you have.” Besides he’s not bothered about ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ I guess he’s lucky enough to be the Jones… Just as is his older brother and I know my daughter will too. I think we’d all rather be the Jones and I’m not talking about accumulating ‘Stuff.’
Happy New Year to you all!