Category Archives: Family Life

A Penny Saved

My mother is a frugal woman and she is very proud of her ability to always save for things that are important to her.  If she wanted a new refrigerator she would take an envelope, write “new fridge” on the front, and every month she would add a little money to it.  It is not a fancy system but it worked for my mother and she has saved and purchased everything from trips to Europe to new cars.  From the time I was a small child I can remember my mother doing this, and encouraging me to do the same.  When I was twelve years old I saved my babysitting money so I could buy my own phone for my bedroom.  It was a simple, white, princess phone and it cost $20, but I paid for it and it was in MY room; lesson learned.

I am now a mother who is raising children in the age of entitlement.  Everywhere I turn I see kids who feel that they are “owed” certain privileges and possessions.  They expect their parents to buy them a car, cell phones, clothes, trips, etc.  I want to empower my children with the knowledge of hard work and the wisdom of saving.  I want them to feel the pride that can only come from having saved, scraped and sacrificed for something you desire.  Let me introduce you to “The Jar”.

Our old cookie jar is storing more than cookies
Our old cookie jar is storing more than cookies

I sat down with the kids several weeks ago and had the following conversation:

Me: Okay, we want to go to Disney World when Max is 5. So, we need to start saving money now so we have enough.  Mommy is going to put this jar here.  Every time we get some extra money we are ALL going to put it in the jar and before we know it we will have the money to go.

Lucy: Can I put in my piggy bank money?

Me: That is your decision. It is your money

Lucy: I want to put in my money. (she retrieves her bank and empties it into the jar). Max, do you want to put your bank money in here too?

Max: YEAH!! ( they get his bank and empty it into the jar)

Me: okay, that is great! I’m really proud of you. Now, we need to think about things we can sell and other ways we can make extra money.

This has caused Lucy to think of different chores she can do in order to earn “Disney dollars”.  Her list includes things like; learn to tie her own shoes, sleep in her own bed all night, clean the playroom, and be nice to Max. David and I spent the weekend selling things on Craig’s List (which I love) and letting the kids take the cash and put it into the jar. By the end of the first weekend the jar had over $200.

Previously if the kids found change loose in the house they would fight over whose bank it was going to go into, but now they both rush to put it into the jar. It is not about what “I” want to buy, but what we can do together as a family. 

I realize now, as an adult, that the responsible behavior my parents exhibited has left an indelible mark on me.  Many people today struggle with the idea of how to save, but for my mother it was always so simple; just a little bit, every month.  And so it will be for my children too.

Coming Home

I attended high school and college in Michigan and even though I didn’t “grow up” in Michigan I still consider it home. We’re visiting my parents this week, staying in the same house where I experienced my worst heart breaks, my first job offers and finally left to become an adult. The bed is different, the room rearranged and yet the view out the window is the same. It’s hard to reconcile the ultra familiar with the strangely unknown. I walk into this house not as an occupant but as a visitor. I walk thru the door not as a young woman seeking her path in life, but as a mother with children.

Because I don’t see my parents on a regular basis it is as if we have to adjust to being two new people every time we see each other. I am no longer a child, and my mother is no longer the happy hummingbird buzzing around our lives. My mother, long wracked with the pain of arthritis, stenosis, and fibromyalgia, is frustrated, uncomfortable, tired and weak. She is occupied with finding new homes for old memories. As I shuffle through pictures of me with a parade of old boyfriends sitting on the same couch, with the same windows in the background, it makes those memories seem pointless. They are pictures of a life that seems to have existed in a parallel universe with a person that was not me, but only looked like me.

However, for my children, this is a magical location. An enchanted forest filled with toys, adventures and new things. Grandma’s house has secret cupboards that contain curious things to explore and mysteries that need to be unfolded. Her pantry swelling with treats to eat and sweets that need to be eaten. Their little hearts bursting with the love and adoration that comes from standing in the light of two people who adore them, and yearn for them to be the center of their universe.

This is what growing up is all about. As I mature and see my parents as the raw humans that they are, my children see them as the perfect, glorious people of my youth.