When I Grow Up…

This morning, this sweet little boy looked up at me from the coach with this same timid smile and said, “Mama, when I grow up and get to be an adult, and when I have kids, I’m gonna let my kids do whatever they want.” 

I smiled and patted his head. “Ok honey, you can do that when you grow up.”

What prompted this pronouncement?

Yesterday he got a crisp new $20 bill in the mail for Easter from his Grammy. This morning he remembered today was “school store” day, when the PTA buys a whole bunch of little trinkets (mostly junk) and resells it to kids for profit. I sometimes give my kids a couple dollars to spend and sometimes they spend their own money.

I told Alex he could not take his $20 bill to school and use it for school store. It’s just too much money to carry around and spend on pencils and mini erasers. $3 is the max I will let the kids spend.

Alex doesn’t yet understand that $20 is too much to take to school. Money tends to burn a hole in Alex’s pockets. Nathan knows how to save it and buy something more valuable. He also knows any money he gets goes three places, first to God, then some to savings, the rest can be spent.

After Alex’s adorably misguided statement, I decided to give each child a couple bucks from my wallet for the school store. I like to give them opportunities to assign value to goods and exchange money for them, independent of my influence.

Money is something we talk about frequently with the kids. We talk about earning money, banks, tithing and saving and budgeting. I say “No” to a lot of requests in stores simply because I do not want them to believe they are entitled to anything. When I say “Yes” to something, it’s usually backed up with a good reason.

They will never hear me say “we can’t afford that” about anything, because that would be a lie. I say “we don’t need that” a lot, and sometimes I say “that would be nice but it isn’t in the budget right now.”

Lately we talk a lot about how we are saving money for our adoption. I try to explain as much about the adoption as I can to them, and they know that it takes a lot of money for the people at the orphanage to take care of their baby sister until we can come and get her.

One of my kids, I think it was the older one but I can’t remember which, recently made a comment about how getting our baby sister is so expensive but when they were born it was free. I laughed out loud! I explained that the real cost of each of their births vastly exceeded the cost of this adoption. Both boys were born via C-section in a hospital, with numerous prenatal doctor visits and ultrasounds. Nathan spent a week in the NICU. If not for insurance, the cost of each birth would be astronomical.

But with adoption there is no insurance to cover the costs of homestudies and lawyers and fingerprints and then just basic childcare while we wait. I laugh when people say that if you can’t afford to pay for an adoption yourself, how can you afford the kid? That’s someone who has no understanding of the costs of raising a kid or the cost of an adoption. Both private domestic adoptions and intercountry adoptions cost somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000. Out of pocket, almost all at once. (Well, within a year or three.)

I digress. My goal is not to make my children happy. My job is to raise my kids with a strong work ethic and the ability to view and manage money responsibly, as a tool and not a goal. Accumulating money should never the goal. Being a conduit of blessing is the goal.