My daughter came home the other day from a doll playdate. The girls all brought their 18-inch dolls, you know the American Girl Doll kind. My daughter does have a real American Girl Doll, given to her on her birthday after more than four years on her wish list and some creative saving. She is fond of that doll, and has never once complained about the fact that it is her only one (it is not unusual for her peers to have three or four of these dolls as well as all of the accessories).
She did complain though that one of her friends was being mean to another friend. Apparently this little girl, let’s all her Sarah, brought the Target version of the 18-inch doll and was teased because it was “only a fake.” “Who cares,” my daughter said. “It was a pretty doll.”
I was so proud when Sarah’s mother, a struggling single mom, called me up and told me that my own daughter stood up for her daughter. Proud mama moment.
But the situation made me think about how when you are living a frugal lifestyle, you better make sure that your children have plenty of understanding about your choices as well as some healthy self-esteem.
My oldest child, aged 11, came home just yesterday complaining that when one of his teachers asked who had a cell phone, all hands were raised but his. In fact, all the phones were not just cell phones, but smart phones. I took the opportunity to explain why we were making the choice not to give him a cell phone, but if he really wanted one he could find a way to earn the monthly fee, such as by doing work for the neighbors in the summer, and we would discuss it. We calculated out different jobs that he might be able to do and what he could charge. He would have to work all summer long just to afford a regular pay-as-you-go phone.
“I’d rather be able to play outside or go places in the summer,” he responded. “I don’t need to be like everyone else.” Whoa. I have to remember that the next time I’m grumbling about not having x, y or z to impress the neighbors.
I’m proud that both my children had enough self-esteem to be able to overcome the peer pressure to spend money or have the latest and greatest, and I hope that as they grow they will continue down this same path.
I know I can’t avoid cell phones forever, or braces, or goodness forbid–another car, but I’m hoping that some of the choices we are making now, as a family, will help later.