Nothing was Free

“Dad when I turn sixteen will you buy me a car?”

Dad (snorting): “If you want a car, you buy a car. Besides, you can’t afford the gas and insurance anyways…”

“How much is gas and insurance?”

Dad: “$____”

Me: “You’re right, I couldn’t:)”

…life lesson in the Kope home #1,037.

There’s this thing now that says you should give your kids what your parents couldn’t afford to give you, and it’s a load of garbage. I realized early on that my parents were extremely generous with me, but there was this tension of having to earn most things.

They could have responded to growing up in a time where there wasn’t a lot by handing us everything on a platter, but they never missed an opportunity to teach us how to fish, which is more important than being handed one.

My dad’s solution to the car problem was loaning me the money to buy a car when I was out of high school, and finding me a job to pay him back. Giving me the money might have been easier, but dad didn’t care about easy, he cared about me.

We were at the Calgary Zoo yesterday and my third girl Katie informed me in her typical practical fashion “Dad, most of the kids in my class bought themselves souvenirs from here with their parent’s money on our field trip” as we were walking through the strategically placed Panda Gift Shop. Strategically placed meaning you have to walk through it to exit the exhibit…

Now before you label me a Panda hating monster who doesn’t love his daughter…

Katie wasn’t upset by this in any way. And she didn’t bring it up to shame me into buying her something. It was just data, but her conclusions were interesting.

It’s a little tricky because buying a panda bear stuffie is fun and a great way to remember one’s trip to the zoo, and someone reading this bought one for their child and that’s awesome. But lately I’ve been trying to teach our daughters that it’s better to plan ahead to buy things than deciding on the spot.

Katie is young but managed to recognize the value of the lesson and that’s what impressed me. She didn’t need me to buy it for her in a vain attempt to add value to her life with things because things are quickly forgotten, but one day she’ll be walking through the inescapable gift shop and have an opportunity to tell her daughter “Did you budget for this or not?”

That’s a life lesson.

There are family vacation times where I spontaneously give the girls money for slurpee runs, or geodes to break open with hammers, or whatever, but I have a budget envelope called Vacation which I scrimp and save for all year that allows me to be generous for a couple of weeks. But the only way it works is if it’s not open season all year round.

I’m convinced that kids who get everything they want are less grateful and ill equipped to deal with the real world they’ll soon be entering.

My girls are hopefully learning how to say no to themselves because we say no to them ten times a day.

It all starts with us. There are times I say no to work and yes to time with my family. I could take on more work at this stage of life, but I don’t get this time back and my daughters are depending on me to be there for them. I can’t buy my way out because what they really want is me to be present. It’s worth more to me than money.

Having said all this, I come from hard working stock and my normal work week would cause most millennials to call in Stress Leave (whatever the heck that is) for about a month, but there is a level of commitment to work I won’t be able to give for a few more years which is hard on me personally because I have big dreams, but I’ve decided I’d regret missing these formative years with them more.

When I think back to what I take pride in the most, it’s always something I worked hardest for. My marriage, my daughters, my life long friendships, my relationship with God.

I’ve been blessed in my life to be sure, but nothing was free… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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