Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The First Step Toward Ending the Anderson Entitlements

I love to be efficient.  I have to confess, I am an incredibly impatient person. However, I pride myself on the ability to multi-task so that I can get everything done that needs to be done in the shortest amount of time.  With that in mind, I admit, that I rarely take my kids shopping.  For anything.  Ever.   I plan our family meals on a weekly basis and shop for groceries once a week on my way home from work.  I also purchase my kids' clothes when they aren't with me (which has recently started to backfire, now that my daughter has begun to express her own sense of style). 

Rewind to 3 weeks ago. . . I was in a hurry (as usual), and needed to get my son a new pair of pants.  This kid has always had the uncanny ability to ruin a pair of jeans in a single wearing, but that is another story for another day.  I have, on regular occasions, purchased many a pair of jeans from our local kids used clothing store, Once Upon A Child.  So, not thinking anything of it, I decided to make a quick stop as we were driving by.  Yep, you guess it, the kids were with me on this rare impromptu shopping excursion.  Walking in, their eyes were as big as basketballs gazing at the vaguely organized chaos of Once Upon A Child. 

As I started perusing the boys denim aisle, my daughter asked (with horror in her voice) "Have these clothes been worn before?" 
"Yes," was my simple reply. 
"You mean they are USED?"
Then, as I stood there trying to weigh my response, my son asks in his simple matter-of-fact way, "Mom, are we poor?"

GASP!!!! (and pause for effect)

That was the moment it hit me.  Like a ton of bricks falling from the sky, I realized in a single swift moment of horror, the truth.  MY CHILDREN ARE ON A FAST-TRACK TO ENTITLEMENT!!!  Noooooooo, I wailed in my head.  It can't be!  They are first generation Texans.   We live in the country.  Granted, the only agriculture we have been able to properly sustain has been weeds, but still. . . WE LIVE IN THE COUNTRY!!! 

The statistic that had been flying all around the media that particular week (this little life-changing incident was in the weeks leading up to our most recent Presidential election) surrounded the whole idea around the 47%.  You know the one, 47% of people in the US are on some form of government assistance.  The 47% that have been labeled "the takers".  I realized, my children were on the short path to becoming a 47 percenter.  I wanted to lay down, right there on the floor of Once Upon A Child, and have myself a little temper tantrum.

Somehow I managed to pull things together enough to make it out of the store without a scene (no, I did not buy any pants as the urgency of it all had passed as quickly as the realization that I was the worst parent in the world).  So began my search for a way out of the horrible mess that I had single-handedly created over the past nine and a half years.

In sharing this story with a group of close friends, my friend Susan stopped me and told me I needed to read this book.  She told me it was one of the best parenting books she had ever read.  Knowing Susan and her husband to both be exceptional parents with really great kids, I thought "Okay, that sounds like a great idea.  I will download it on my Kindle tonight".  And, download it I did!  I read the entire first chapter the next morning before I had even finished my first cup of coffee.

This is where the real story picks up.  That very day, our family took the first step toward independence and shedding ourselves of the "entitled life".  It just so happened that I had all the supplies necessary to taking that first step--Mason jars (yes, I have a case of Mason jars in the garage--I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY, remember?), ribbon, puffy paint, and a hot glue gun.  Step 1 in the book, "Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement", centered around clutter control.  The author recommended filling a jar with dollar bills--one for each day of the month.  Every day that the assigned tasks weren't completed, a dollar would be removed from the offender's jar.  So, we set about making awesome jars!  My daughter, the artistic one in the family, really took a shine to this part of the task.  We actually had a lot of fun making said jars.  The kids even challenged Dave and I to play along.  Of course, Dave was all over it, as it would simply mean an extra $30 every month he could use on golf balls.  I think the jars turned out very nice!  The kids were excited about things and we were on our way!

Always a stickler for details, my son was very concerned with where the confiscated funds would end up.  So, we had a little fun and created a "Penalty Box" jar.  I haven't quite decided what we should do with the money that ends up here at the end of every month, but I have been toying with perhaps giving it away to a charity or someone in need.  That part is still a work in progress.
We are now on day 3 of the experiment and so far my son is down $1, my daughter is down $2, Dave is on a mission for more golf balls so he has been playing the game with precision.  Of course, being the highly competitive person that I am, I am batting 1,000 too.  However, everyone is still on board.  It has become a great motivator in our house.  We are excited about the possibilities and I am breathing a little easier knowing that I at least have a "plan".
As Lao Tzu says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".  The Anderson bunch has taken our first step on this long journey.  I hope to bring you updates along the way.  I am already so proud of the energy and enthusiasm my kids have shown as they rise to this new challenge!

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