When each of our four kids was born, we set up a savings account in their names.
Every month, we toss in a bit of money – and I mean a bit, especially now that it’s split four ways – with the idea that one day, when they’re older, we’ll gift them each with whatever we’ve managed to put aside in their name.
We haven’t thought out the particulars – maybe it’ll help them pay for their first car or part of a college education, or maybe we’ll just surprise them with it after graduation – but I’m pleased that it’s something we’re able to do.
Except part of me wonders if this is the kind of thing that they’d be better off without.
Both my husband and I had good upbringings. We both worked starting around age sixteen to pay for things like movie tickets and (gulp) illicit alcohol. My parents ended up matching me for my very first car – a second-hand Toyota pick-up – when I was seventeen, and my husband worked to buy himself a brand new Chevy with no help from anyone. I paid my way through university while living at home, and my husband’s parents chipped in heavily for him.
Along the way, we both learned about wanting things and working hard to get them – an education, good grades, a new car, that killer pair of boots, spring break in Mexico, whatever.
We learned all about appreciation and gratitude, and now, when we do or get nice things, we don’t take them for granted.
I want my kids to have that same awareness. I want them to know what it’s like to really, really want something and then to have to wait and work for it.
And right now, I’m learning that making that happen is as hard on us as it is on them.
I’ve read that we can teach appreciation to our kids with things like sharing and values and emphasizing good money management. And yeah, I’m sure that’s part of it.
But the other part of it is making them earn the things they ask for – sleepovers, or new Lego sets, or baseball cards, or whatever – and then sticking to it. That can be hard for me.
Not only is it usually so much easier to say yes (especially to our still tantrum-prone four year old) for any number of reasons, but you know, we have good kids, and I love seeing them excited.
But I get it, I do. The act of earning something has value in and of itself – even when the lesson itself may not be as satisfying as instant gratification (for any of us).
So back to these savings accounts that we have going. Throughout various upheavals to our lifestyle, it’s money that we’ve never touched. We don’t even consider it – as far as we’re concerned, it’s their money.
But my husband and I joke, and it’s not really a joke, that if our kiddos grow up to be undeserving of these tidy little windfalls – if they don’t understand or appreciate what a gift that is – well, we’re going to be taking one hell of a trip around the world. Alone.
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