|When is too much too much?
I recently got in a debate with a close friend about his wanting to get his not-yet-16-year-old son a car.
“He has done well in school; he deserves it,” my friend said. This same friend is financially strapped, in constant debt, yet wants to please his son whose many friends “all have cars.”
My new wife and I regularly spar over what constitutes being spoiled, and she believes, for example, that the “fancy” cell phones I just got the boys, were “too much.”
“What do they have to look forward to?” she asks. This is the ultimate juggling act for my generation of parents, who seem inclined to pamper their kids, delay their growing up, and otherwise give them everything they desire. It seems we’re all trying to compensate for some perceived slight our kids are suffering at our hands, whether it’s the dual-working parents or, in my case, the ugly divorce and absentee Mom.
I feel bad for them, so I buy to assuage those feelings.
Yet, I agree with my fiancé that there are valuable lessons the boys can learn by delayed gratification and hand-me-downs. So, my teenager (who will not reach 16 for another 14 months, but who’s counting) understands clearly that he is NOT getting a car when he turns 16. In fact, he won’t even get his license if he’s not maintaining an agreed upon grade average (a “B”).
He understands that “spending money” is earned, in part, by doing his required chores and finding small jobs. He’s limited in that regard by his age. When we recently moved and our new next-door neighbor mentioned that she needed help cleaning her horse’s stalls, I leapt at that opportunity for him. His first instinct was “ugh, that’s disgusting” until I reminded him what those Smoothies he loves and iTunes songs cost. I will provide my boys with many wonderful life experiences but they will learn to earn the extras, wait and save for the big-ticket items, and maybe, just maybe, only get to drive my car occasionally.
Hopefully, if I’m lucky, this way they’ll actually move out of the house before finishing their 20’s!
Till the next one...
Bruce Sallan was an award-winning television executive and producer for 25 years and a current columnist touching upon life experiences as a father. When his boys were quite young, Bruce left show biz to become a full-time Dad. Shortly thereafter his marriage ended and he found himself a full-time single Dad, in his late forties, as well as a returning single man to the changed world of cyber-dating. Recently married, Bruce Sallan lives with his new wife and two sons in California. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.