The other day, my son had a sadden look on his face when he saw the type of cake he was given for dessert.
“What’s wrong” my wife asks.
“Nothing, I guess.” was his response.
Something snapped within both my wife and me. We sat our kids down and had a long chat. It was at some point in the conversation when we all realized that each one of us was doing something wrong.
I did not grow up impoverished but many sacrifices occurred to help me find success later in life. I came from a hard-working military family. My mother is a naturalized American from Korea that had a moment of weakness that allowed me to enter this world when she was only 20 years of age. Dishonoring her father, she left the only home she knew and followed her heart to America where for the first few years of my life, traveled with other migrant workers from south Texas throughout the Midwest harvesting crops. Along the way, I have fond memories of studying by a small lamp, putting every container we own to catch water when it would rain, or playing paper games my mom would create.
My wife also had humble beginnings. Her family was constantly on the move and simple pleasures that many take for granted were set aside as special moments (think McDonalds). Her parents were in the same situation as mine, get my wife to college at all cost. Thankfully I met my wife early on and our mutual journey has been filled with love, joy, frustration, inkling of wealth, a pet turtle, a hamster, a dog and two kids. In other words, perfect.
Now that we have what every parent belive they got, two absolutely amazing children, we wanted to give them the opportunities we never had. A home in an affluent neighborhood with great schools and programs. Music, dance, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, basketball and soccer are just some of the activities our children has been or currently involved with. So far not only did they put our fears to rest of overloading, they crave more. What has been diconcerning is the “more” part. Our children are surrounded by friends that have many wonderful things at ages much too young to truly appreciate them. All this display of wealth have planted a seed of entitlement within our children that my wife and I are not use to as it was something we never had. This is now reflected on my son’s face as he looked at the slice of his cake. Some may say we over-reacted to the frown but this was just the final straw in a series of incidents that help paint a picture of an identity lost in acquired things. Humility is set adrift as both my son and daughter compare their worth by the things they own.
There is a point when efforts to help your child becomes excessive and loses effectiveness. We are now at that precipice which make our humble beginnings seem so distant now. It is time for change.
We talked about who you are without material things. We remind them of the family that surrounds them, that loves them and the humility they live by everyday. Our activities, supported by many “material things”, are now simplified.
How effective has the changes been? Time will tell. The kids are captivated by the stories of the lives we lived when we were their ages. A lot of bewilderment, awe and giggles fill the home during personal story time as my wife and I tell stories of our past life, that of our parents and even some that was shared to us by elders long past. As I watch my beautiful children sleep, I am grateful that I can give them so many things but ever more appreciative of the type of people they are becoming.