The other day I published a video on our Facebook page called “10 Things Good Moms Do Without Realizing It” (based on this article by Elizabeth Spencer, which is one of our most popular this year.) The 10 things are simple, every day things moms do like, “told your kids you loved them,” and “served dinner.” The response to the video was very positive, but…moms being moms, there were some that couldn’t help but feel the mom guilt that is the result of the societal pressure to give our kids ALL THE THINGS.
One mom in particular commented:
I feel guilty sometimes bc we can’t afford to go do things all the time like go out to eat, movies, amusement parks, stuff like that. But I am up at dawn making sure my kids are up, fed, off to school with lunches. I tell them I love them every day with hugs and kisses. But I feel like it’s not enough.
To that mom, and to all of us who have a hard time convincing ourselves that showing up every day and consistently meeting our kids’ every day needs isn’t ENOUGH…well, I’d like to tell you about my childhood.
It was THE BEST. But it was completely non-magical.
Can we talk about how much I miss the 80s and how freaking adorable I was? Dang, why did I have to peak at 5!?????!!
I was your typical child of the 80s. I grew up on a small cul-de-sac and grew up running around the neighborhood, climbing trees, playing in the mud hole at the end of my driveway, and rubbing my ankles raw while hopping on my Pogo Ball (who else had one!??) My dad was a teacher and my mom went back to work when I was in first grade, having spent my kindergarten year getting a master’s degree.
My parents worked hard and they loved my brothers and me a lot. But there was nothing truly special or magical about my childhood.
I never believed in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I didn’t get special toys or rewards for getting good grades—I was expected to do my best and for me, that meant getting good grades. I had plenty of new clothes but I wore a lot of hand-me-downs, too.
Don’t get me wrong, I had everything I needed. Presents at Christmas and birthdays, et cetera. But none of it was ever made to appear our of thin air or purported to be delivered by a fictional character.
I went to Disney World when I was six, but all I remember about it is the endless wait for my brothers to get on and off of Space Mountain and that Captain Hook (in a costume) scared the CRAP out of me and my dad got SUPER MAD and a little combative with the good Cap’n when he wouldn’t take a hint. (This remains one of my favorite memories of my dad, it was the first time I remember realizing that he would fight for me, protect me even in the most public or embarrassing of situations.)
When my oldest brother Charles went off to college, I was 11, and family vacations ceased completely. Because now the vacation money was most definitely being spent on my brother’s education.
I don’t remember that ever bothering me, though.
I don’t remember a lot of discontent.
When I was a tween in the late 1980s my dad got a 1976 Buick Skylark that he drove us around in for a few years. It was SO NOT COOL. But it got us from A to B. And A to B with my dad was most often from garage sale to garage sale or perhaps from garage sale to Big Lots. My parents were frugal, and because of it, we never wanted for anything.
I’ve said all of this to make just one point: My entirely un-magical childhood was still the most wondrous childhood I can imagine. Every day I lived with two perfectly imperfect parents who loved God, each other, and my brothers and I fiercely. They showed that love with hugs and kisses, words, and by MEETING OUR NEEDS. They went to work. They fed and clothed us, they took us where we needed to go, they supported our interests, and they never said “no” unless they had a good reason.
Sometimes that reason was that we couldn’t afford it.
And let me tell you, no amount of debt they could have accrued by giving us all the “extras” that parents today feel that their kids NEED, could have possibly eclipsed the beauty of the childhood they gave us just by being freaking good parents. Not indulgent, not “involved,” not anything but just good.
Mamas, hear me: GOOD is GREAT.
I didn’t have a magical childhood. I had something BETTER. I had parents who loved me and others, who served God, and who taught me how to be a good person by EXAMPLE. And if my husband and I are half the parents mine were, my kids will one day sing the praises of their own non-magical childhoods as well.
No vacation, toy, car, or other material gift could have had more value.
If you have the means to give your kids material things and still keep them grounded, then go for it. Ain’t nothing wrong with a trip to the Magic Kingdom. But if you don’t, give them what you’ve got.
It is MORE than enough, I promise you. I promise you.
(Side note: to prove that I am not against all things magical, I reallyreallyreallyreally want to take myself, I mean my kids, to Hogwarts. LIKE SO BAD. So that may be a magical goal I’m setting!)