I went to Target yesterday. I needed milk. It just seemed like a more entertaining outing for Luke to go to Target than the grocery store. I should have spent $1.99 but instead, I spent $189.00. And no, I didn’t buy big colorful bins to hold the abundance of toys in the basement, a new iron to replace the one with the huge crack down the side, a vacuum so that if someone tracked dirt into my house I wouldn’t have to wait two weeks for the next cleaning lady visit, or much needed new towels for the guest bathroom. No, I didn’t buy any of those things that I could have written off as necessities. I bought 5 new matchbox cars for Luke’s ridiculously growing collection, 2 new kid’s CD’s for Luke to listen to in the car, a new tennis skirt for Hannah in pink since the blue one she has is, well, blue, a Princess and the Frog t-shirt because it was the first movie Hannah and I saw together, a flowery tunic in size 5T because if they had had it in my size I would have bought it for myself, a pair of jeans for Hannah because, you know, you can never have enough jeans, a pair of mini girl yoga pants because you never know when a 5 year old will want to take up yoga and Toy Story figurines because Hannah and I were seeing Toy Story at her school last night and I thought she’d like to have them to play with after seeing the movie. We needed none of it. Hannah wasn’t even with me begging me for it. I just wanted to buy it all. I knew it would make the kids happy, so it made me happy to spend the money (that I really don’t have to be spending on these unnecessary things).
Spoiled. I looked in the dictionary. It clearly states, “to impair the value or quality of”, “To damage irreparably”. That. Sounds. Bad. I know when I have a container of milk in my fridge that’s spoiled, I toss it out. A loaf of bread with blue growths sprouting out of it? In the trash. I do whatever I can to keep my perishables from spoiling. I spent at least a hundred dollars on containers for my cupboards to keep things from spoiling.
So, why is it so hard to NOT spoil my kids? Am I really doing irreparable damage to them? Am I diminishing their value just like the bananas that have more brown than yellow sitting on my counter? Why do I do it?
I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this as I judge other people for spoiling their kids and I look at why I never seem to have enough money to get me through the end of the month. I realize that I’m doing it for ME. To make myself feel good. I feel guilty spending money on myself. If I’m spending on them, I feel like I’m doing a good thing. Being a good mom. Hannah is an amazing gift receiver. The smile she gives me when I show her what I got for her, her way of THROWING her arms around me and telling me how much she LOVES it and me, melts me. I love that smile. I love that feeling. But I know, she wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t bought it for her. She would have loved me just the same.
I also realized that I buy all of this “stuff” to help me. A few new cars will keep Luke amused while holding them at the grocery store. A new dump truck will busy him for the thirty minutes it takes me to cook dinner. The new music for the car keeps his head bobbing up and down and his face smiling in his car seat (and gives me one more way to drive dangerously as I try to focus on the road AND and watch him giggling to the new tunes). The figurines for Hannah allow me an hour of quiet time while she recreates the movie on the family room floor. The new shirt means one less argument in the morning in an effort to get her dressed. New books=excitement for bedtime. All this stuff… is really for me.
If you could SEE my kids dresser drawers. If you could SEE my basement, the playroom, the family room. You’d know, just like I do, that there Is No More Room for this stuff. It’s almost like an addiction. Some people eat to make themselves feel better. Drinking takes the edge off. Drugs bring people to another, happier place. I buy. Little things from inexpensive places, but I still buy. Because buying brings me some sort of satisfaction. No, my credit cards are nowhere near maxed out. No, I don’t buy things and hide them from my husband. I am (generally) careful with our money. But when I can, I buy for the kids. I’m lucky I can do that. I’m lucky that we do have some disposable income that I can spend but I should be spending it on meaningful things. Things that in two weeks won’t be forgotten about, tossed aside, grown out of. Things that won’t “spoil” my children.
I don’t want my kids to expect the world to be handed to them. I want them to feel like they have to EARN their keep. I want holidays to feel special when they get gifts from us. I want to always see that glimmer in their eye when they are handed a wrapped box. I am so careful to be raising polite, healthy, friendly, kind kids. I also want to be raising grateful kids. Thankful, appreciative kids. And it scares me that in my generosity (and at the same time selfishness) I may be doing “irreparable” damage.
I need to realize (as I tell the grandparents in my kids life) that the TIME I spend with my kids is what matters. Not the tangible things I give them. Baking cupcakes, making a paper mache head, finger painting, making a house out of a cardboard box, creating a volcano, building a snowman… THESE are the things they’ll remember. That I’LL remember and treasure as a wonderful memory.
And with that, I’m heading out to Target and returning what I bought yesterday. Except the cars because they’ve already been pushed through the mud. And the Toy Story figurines because they are the reason I had time to write this blog post. And the milk. Because we really did need that.