I don’t give into my kids’ every desire, but I do my best to provide them with a few “wants” every now and then. As a kid I went without a lot of things, so I know what it’s like to feel inferior or embarrassed when your friends have more than you, be it the new, coolest toy or the best, trendiest clothes.
But perhaps more importantly, I know there a helluva lot more things your kid needs that money can’t buy, and those things are way more valuable and important than anything I could procure at a store.
When my daughter was a toddler — the first grandchild on all sides — she was gifted with damn near anything and everything she could ever want or need. I didn’t mind at first, but as the years went on I noticed how entitled she started to act. Even with the arrival of her younger brother, she’d become so accustomed to people buying or giving her things, she couldn’t handle this new baby getting anything unless she got something, too.
Over the last few months, my family has gone through a major transition. We moved out-of-state, away from family and friends, and had to downsize all of our belongings to a fraction of what we were used to in order to accommodate. We knew the move would be an adjustment, and during this new period of change I’m, once again, reminded that what my children need more than toys or clothes, is the following:
It should go without saying, but kids need love. They need an overflowing abundance of the stuff. Love costs nothing. My kids need it, your kids need it — everyone needs it. Love fearlessly, relentlessly, and unconditionally. It may feel hard to freely give that emotion all the time, but I assure you: nothing bad will come as the result of loving your children.
Support is also free, but as a parent I know how busy life gets and, as a result, how hard it can be to constantly support those around you. You might find yourself, like me, working, cooking dinner, or doing any number of things when your child might be in the midst of a silent crisis.
My daughter needs my support constantly, but she doesn’t always ask for help. Maybe she’s embarrassed or confused because, well, growing up is hard. Either way, when she needs me is when I need to tune in and offer an kind of support she needs.
Raising a daughter is showing me how valuable trust in our relationship is. Yes, trust is important in any relationship, but my girl needs to know she can come to me about anything and, likewise, that I can trust she’s learning enough to make the right choices when I’m not there.
I always took comfort in knowing if things were rough at home, I could go to my grandmother. She was steadfast and unwavering in every way. I want my kids to feel the same way about me. Whether they’re hurting and need a hug, or are insecure and need reassurance, I want to be to them what my grandmother was to me.
I can’t emphasize the importance of security enough — and I don’t only mean financially, but emotionally. I never felt settled, stable, or secure as a child, so I have a hard time as an adult feeling secure in anything.
I will never not work as hard as possible to provide security and stability for my children. Security, to me, means knowing you can be yourself (good, bad, and in between) around “your people,” and feeling confident that your mom and dad will still love and accept you regardless. It’s free, and it’s necessary if I want my children to have healthy relationships of their own someday.
The one thread that carried me through life, even during the hard times, was laughter. My grandmother laughed about everything and while I also learned how to avoid uncomfortable conversations by diverting with jokes (my go-to defensive mechanism), I also learned an invaluable life lesson of how to see the positive in all things. My kids have a lifetime to figure out all the awful things life can and usually will throw at you. So, for now, I want them to laugh. A lot.
It doesn’t cost a thing to talk to your kids. I never felt like I could go to my parents for anything when I was a child, and I sure as hell don’t want my kids to feel the same. So we talk about the fun stuff, like what they’re into and how their days are going, but we also talk about the hard stuff, like sex and self-care.
One of the most valuable things you can give your children is your time. What they need more of all is you. All you. I want my children to remember that when they were living in my home, I devoted my time and energy to them. After all, we will never get that time back.
I may not always know what I’m doing in life, but I hope to steer my kids towards the right choices. I’m trying to encourage independence, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be there if they need me.
Parenting is hard, and I can’t buy my way out of those challenging moments. When my daughter wants some toy or whatever, and slams her door and shouts at me and her father when she hears “no,” I’m not going to hand over money or cave.
My daughter needs boundaries. Without them, I foresee her flailing through life, never feeling fulfilled by any person, place, or thing. I may not be her favorite person at times, but that’s OK. I know what she needs before she ever will.