I was chatting with a couple of friends recently, who also happen to parent households with greater than the average number of children, when the conversation turned to our teens/pre-teens and the amount of whining we endure from them. It is a rite of passage, a documented stage of development, for a teenager to be self-focused and “first world” whiny. I mentioned that I am slightly concerned that my kids don’t do enough whining. Yes, they whine. But, they don’t whine for stuff. In fact, they don’t ask me for anything really. Yes, they ask if we can do things, or go out to eat occasionally. But, the requests are few and far between, and the requests for stuff are non-existent.
When you have kids from hard places, you worry about the things your kids don’t ask for. Are they not asking because they feel like they owe you a debt of gratitude for even being here and, therefore, can’t, or shouldn’t, ask for anything else? Do they feel like they’re not REALLY a part of this family and, therefore, have no right to ask? I worry about this. I worry they feel like they can’t, or shouldn’t, want stuff.
So, I’ve been researching a little, watching them, and asking some gentle questions to investigate. I’ve asked if their friends have certain high ticket, much coveted items. Some of them do. Some of them have iPhones and track suits that cost more than my children’s entire summer wardrobe. But, thankfully, most of them don’t. I am thankful to be raising my kids in a community that is so grounded, and so thoroughly middle class.
I also learned that my kids are inherently aware of what we can afford and what we can’t. When we make a large purchase they watch me research, consider, re-research, save, shop around, and then, finally, make the purchase. They see the hemming and hawing that goes into each of these endeavors. When I asked why they thought they didn’t have an iPhone all of my big kids understood that they are 1. not allowed to have unrestricted access to the internet, social media and texting for safety reasons and that 2. iPhones are ridiculously priced and that both FPD and I have one for work related purposes. They all agreed they are lucky to have what they do.
It was the follow-up to the iPhone question that left me speechless though, and it came from each one of my four eldest. They all, in some form, maybe with varied phrasing, but with the same general end point to their message, said that there are kids all over the world who live with FAR LESS then we do. They all said that if they never had an iPhone but had things like electricity and running water, that they would be doing better than the vast majority of the planet.
Having come from the hard places that they have, there is so much that I wish they had NOT seen. At this moment, I was thankful for what they had seen, and for the ones who hadn’t witnessed it first hand, they had learned about it from their siblings.
One child, who is especially aware of the plight of institutionalized kids around the world said to me, and I’m quoting here, “If you bought all of us iPhones with data plans and then paid the fee every single month, by the end of the year, we could probably have paid the fee to adopt another kid. I have to decide what’s worth more to me. I don’t care if another kid has an iPhone, I just don’t want one. I’d rather have another brother or sister.”
So, I guess sometimes, they do ask me for some stuff. It’s just not the stuff one might expect.
–FullPlateMom, who is so thankful to be living this counter-cultural life.