A GREAT DEPRESSION FOR KIDS?

Not that I want this to be a Great Depression. I hope it’s not. But if it is, I see kids emerging from their dens when their X-Boxes break and their parents can’t afford to replace them. I see kids dropping out of travel soccer, when their parents can’t afford the gas. I see kids figuring out how to retool their bikes and skates and maybe even their MP3 players when their parents can’t immediately buy them the newest, niftiest models.

In other words, I see fancy toys and vacations and enrichment classes falling away. And the only thing left is…childhood.

And the only things left to play with are…other kids.

And sticks.

I know I have a tendency to romanticize the past — not to mention poverty. (And sticks.) And I suspect that for all the heady joy of feeling “grown up” and responsible, helping the family pick peaches in Salinas, California might not have been quite as fulfilling as it looked to a suburban girl reading “The Grapes of Wrath” on the patio while her dad grilled skirt steaks on the hibachi. (Thanks, Dad!)

Still, it can be argued that affluence has been really miserable for our kids. Easy money — or easy enough money — bought them all the stuff they used to make and do on their own. Professionally built tree houses. Batting practice overseen by a private coach. Dance recitals with real roses and expensive costumes and a slick DVD at the end. Kids have been treated like grown-ups on a cruise: Only the best, let-us-do-it-for-you,  oh my, just three lessons and already you are a pro!

For grown-ups, a cruise can be a nice interlude — a fantasy time of pampering and luxury. But for kids, when pampering becomes part of everyday life, it’s a drain. Having Beauty Home Contractors build your tree house is about as fulfilling as having Beauty Home Contractors run a race for you, or steal your first kiss. These are things kids should be doing on their own: working, failing, fearing, falling, and eventually, in some manner, succeeding, even if the tree house ends up half the size and twice as rickety as Beauty Home would have made it.

Same goes for fancy dance recitals, girls. If you always wait for the class and the videographer, you’re going to missing a lot of fun.

So while I don’t want all our 401ks to dry up, and I really don’t want my kids to have to pick peaches for a living (although when the Joads fried dough for dinner, it always sounded delicious), there could be a silver lining to a worldwide financial meltdown.

Or if not silver, maybe plywood. And that’s good, too.

                                   — Lenore

   

42 Responses

  1. My great-aunt worked full-time in a shirt factory as a teen and sent money home to her family after they lost their sharecropper lease during the Great Depression. I don’t think it was as romantic as any book might make it sound. Outright poverty is hell on those living through it.

    That said, I think we’re now living at the other extreme in terms of what’s expected of our kids. Can you imagine a child today being expected to work to help put food on the table? It wouldn’t even be legal. When kids have no meaningful responsibilities, “activities” creep in to fill the void.

    The economy–especially the cost of gas–has caused us to drop the kids’ art and piano lessons in recent months. They still do martial arts, but they get to see their friends there. (FWIW, we are free-range homeschoolers, so we weren’t trying to cram in all of that in the evenings.) And it’s true, my kids have found ways to fill the time, involving sticks, paint and now that the Texas weather is down to 90 degrees, playing outside.

    I know several families who’ve dropped kids’ activities lately due to cost and travel time. No one seems to be suffering for it.

  2. All of these activities have little to do with the kids and a lot to do with the parents. 9 times out of 10 the kids have no say in what they do, let alone a choice in whether they do it or not.

    Sticks are cheaper and more educational but they don’t impress parents (or more importantly, other parents. The only thing worse than parents living through their children is using them to compete with other parents doing the same).

    I don’t understand why people have children if they are going to think only of themselves. Get a dog instead.

  3. According to my grandpa, the great depression was awesome.

  4. This makes me laugh. We don’t have an x-box, or go on cruises, and we actually went peach picking this year!

    We have a big family, and have chosen to forgo some of the “luxuries” of life to have our kids and be happy together.

    I don’t think our kids miss it…and we are a better family for it.

  5. Coincidentally, GeekDad just did a post on how to reassure your kids about the economy.

  6. The same goes for us, Denise! We try to teach our children that we rather have less toys at home, and more children, and they (incredibly) agree with us.

  7. Wow; Pretty fast work. I just posted a little over an hour ago and it’s already been taken down. I suppose if you disagree about their being any upside to people losing their houses to foreclosure and losing their jobs then you can’t state your opinion. I wonder how long this post will stay up. I wasn’t vulgar or rude in anyway. I just think you are offbase here and not as many people are affluent and buying their kids treehouses made by contractors. I guess you are wealthy and that’s great. Not everyone is. I’ll keep checking to see when this comment gets taken down. Thanks and have a good day.

  8. Great post – we are not getting xboxes for the kids, playing travel sports, etc. Kids would rather go camping and spend time with us (and the feeling is definitely mutual)

  9. As parents, we work really hard to help our kids understand that buying things isn’t the answer to *anything at all*. We have needs and we have wants and they are, without question, two very different things.

    The adults provide the needs. School supplies, food, educational games and toys, clothes.. and not always the top of the line stuff, either. We teach the kids that saving money on X means more money for Y. They then decide if they want to scrimp on X or Y.

    The kids save their allowances to buy the “wants”. And yep, even our 4 year old is in on that saving-up-for-stuff task. A new game for the Wii or their DS costs them a few weeks’ worth of allowance – so they spend a lot of time deciding if it’s worth it, reading reviews, talking to friends about it, and ultimately treasure the end result (if they decide to buy it) because they worked for it.

    Isn’t that how the adult world (should) works too?

    Poverty, job loss and financial uncertainty suck. No one wants to make the hard decisions and, at a time when you lose your job/house/etc there really isn’t a silver lining to be had.

    At the same time, living a financially irresponsible lifestyle while the economy is *good* isn’t something to be proud of, either. Teaching our kids to be frugal, to live within their means, to be satisfied with something other than material goods? THAT’s what’s important. I just wish people could do that without a seriously negative motivator prodding them.

  10. My family and I are living the life you romanticize. We didn’t need to wait for The Second Great Depression to make these changes in our lives; we made a radical decision three years and CHOSE to live with less. How? We sold everything and moved to Costa Rica. Why? Because I dreamed of raising my kids the same way you dream about raising yours: free to be children, free to play, free to roam, free to be responsible, contributing, global citizens of this planet.

    Living in Costa Rica sounds cushy, yes? Perhaps a permanent vacation? In some ways it is: beautiful weather most of the time, incredible nature all around us. But we still work and our kids help with the family business (running a small retreat resort on the Pacific Coast–www.tierramagnifica.com).

    We purposely chose to live in a very rural and economically poor area to raise our children (three boys now 13, 11 and 10) in a simpler, less stressful, less material environment. The local kids here don’t have ipods or cell phones or Xboxes and neither do ours. Our kids play with what they find around them, including sticks. Really. They are still-even at their ages–zooming around the same crummy Hot Wheels toy cars we came down here with three years ago. There are no traveling teams (reason enough to flee the U.S.!); instead, they play pick up soccer, in the neighborhood, with a crappy, half-inflated ball and flimsy old nets. Nobody cares; it doesn’t impact the game…or the fun.

    Their friends live in tumble down shacks, very much like what I imagine the migrant workers in The Grapes of Wrath had and, while it’s not the living conditions we aspire to, we know first-hand that it’s a reality for most people in the world.

    We are living proof that a simpler life can be lived and we have the positive results to show for allowing our children to be FreeRange Kids. Our children are rarely bored. They know how to entertain themselves. They know how to play. And create. And dream. And imagine. Not to mention speak Spanish fluently, navigate among people of varying economic levels, and understand the challenges that ignorance and economic poverty bring. They’re not perfect, our lives are not perfect, we don’t have all the answers. But I do know that the best decision of my parenting life was to remove our kids from the American Culture of materialism and fear and allow them to run free.

    If you’d like to read more about our experience here, please visit my blog at http://www.gypsyjournalist.com.

    If you’d like to see what real live FreeRange Kids look like, visit our hot-off-the-press website and Web Show–Super Natural Adventures–at
    http://www.supernaturaladventures.com Watch it with your kids, get inspired, then send them outside to play and encourage them to send us a video, photo or essay of THEIR Super Natural Adventures, which we’ll post on the site.

    Thanks for a great blog. You and your readers are inspiring.

  11. It’s sure lonely, though, when your kids are the only ones on the block who are ever home — even in tight economic times.

  12. Joe Kavanagh

    I don’t think the point of the article was to say that the bad economy was good thing. I also don’t think the author was taking any delight in the misfortune of others.

    I’m not wealthy but I do know the type of people she talks about. The give their kids everything under the sun and schedule too many activities. Trust me, those people do exist, I live among them.

    The moral I took away from this article is that the economic crisis will force people to rethink their spending habits and that the children will learn an important lesson from it.

    The children of the depression learned important life lessons about the value of money. It’s something that stayed with them for a long time and it’s the reason that my grandparents had substantial savings to retire on.

    That lesson has been lost on the Boomers who never went without and spent it like they had it. I know I’ve been guilty of making the same reckless financial mistakes as everyone else.

    I’m cutting back on expenses and my son is feeling the effects of it too. He won’t be getting new PS2, Wii, or DS games and he’s going to be getting books from the library, not the bookstore. He’s going to have to learn to make do with the toys he has.

  13. Great post.

    BTW, attention-seeking, conflict-generating trolls usually get bored and leave if they are ignored. Call me a cynic, but I do think we have a troll under the bridge.

  14. bryus,

    Okay; I suppose I can understand what you are saying I just don’t really know anyone like that. I hope people just enjoy the important stuff; time with their kids and don’t regret it later on. I don’t think we need an economic downturn for such things and I hope it gets straightened out soon enough for eveyone’s sake.
    Good luck to eveyone.

  15. Lenore–this is an awesome post!

    I wish the economic downturn would hit Club Penguin! Money, aka “coins,” are easy come, easy go there. My own son will blow through 10,000 coins in a day, then quickly hustle another round the next day. We have a family friend whose daughter plays Webkinz, which sounds like it runs on a similar economy, with the additional (real) cost of buying stuffed animals with some sort of code on them, that unlocks virtual goods.

    My son recently asked me how he can make “a lot of money fast” in the real world–he had a big-ticket item in mind. He was dismayed when I explained that short of winning the lottery or robbing a bank, you have to work hard and save money smartly in order to have a lot of money. (I couldn’t bear to tell him the third option–be born into an affluent family, which we obviously are not.)

    –Denise

  16. A friend just told me that it would have cost her $3000 to enroll her son in hockey league this year. And that didn’t even include the equipment.! It makes me wonder what will happen if half the team is forced to withdraw.

    I agree that its terrible to buy your child every gadget , but it is also sad to be on a budget, surrounded by families with serious affluenza, and have to tell your child they can’t have what all of their friends have. They’re too young to understand what “spoiled’ means, just want to keep up with their peers.

  17. These are great hopes, but I think you’re being a wee bit naive. You mentioned romanticizing poverty, and that’s what this seems like to me… there are already plenty of kids in the US who’s families can’t afford all these structured activities you’re talking about. I suppose some of them play with sticks, but most of them just watch TV, which is pretty cheap. Part of the reason there is so much structured expensive activity these days is that parents are afraid if they let their children go outside and play, they’ll get kidnapped or raped. I don’t really see financial hardship changing that fear.

    On the other hand, I’m glad someone is more hopeful than I am. And I hope I’m wrong.

  18. We had four children in five years while my husband was also building a business. Overscheduled extracurriculars haven’t been practical from either a scheduling or a financial standpoint for us.

    I have been amazed at the inate ability of a child to amuse himself with a stick. An old tire hung from a tree provides hours of entertainment, too.

    There are days that I envy others whose kids have fancy classes and cool gadgets. But when I see my little boys running around our yard, digging in the dirt and climbing trees, I can’t deny that there is something very Norman Rockwell about their lives.

  19. I’m 14 and I really cannot remember a time in my entire childhood when my mother let me do a ‘normal kid thing.’ When i was under 8, i was not allowed in our front yard because my mother ‘wasnt able to watch me.’ yup, that was her reason. i had quite a few friends who lived on my suburban street, and we loved spending time at eachother’s houses. i remember being ecstatic when i was around 9 and my parents alllowed me to walk over to a friends house alone, as long as i called them when i got there. we lived in a very safe area of a very safe city. i liked to ride my bike with one girl my age, and our street had a circular shape to it. my parents allowed us to ride around that circle. it was a very small circle. when i went to the neighborhood park, about a block from my house, to hang out with friends, i had to call home and convince my paents tha i had not been abducted, raped, or forced into marijuana, etc. well, we just moved to a small town, and i was very proud of them when they let me play capture the flag in a park at night with high schoolers, mostly seniors, they hardly knew. of course, these other kids were all friends frm marching band.
    my parents meant well, but from their overprotection, i have become a very fearful person.

  20. we all lived,by the way.

  21. I would agree with most others that part of the problem is too many kids don’t understand the value of money because their parents teach them early that at least for now, they can and will buy them whatever the hell they want. As for actually going outside and doing something, it all comes down to that nasty phobia parents have for letting their kids do anything outside, in addition to their own reluctance. As probably a direct result of our increasingly and already predominantly white collar society, parents undervalue the simplicity and bliss in going outside and doing something that is not a team sport. I was never good at sports but have developed a passion for hiking and kayaking, which many parents won’t ever do and teach their kids is out there cause “ew… it’s something that isn’t covered in pavement and won’t get them any trophies”. To some degree, I almost want people to make less money, because they don’t need it. My dad grew up on 500 SF; his grandparents were on the floor below and his aunt and uncle the floor above. Now people need individual bedrooms for all their kids even if they have 5 or 6, because god forbid any of them ever need to share a room! People think it’s okay to waste $100,000 on rooms they will never use even if it will bankrupt them because “it’s perfectly okay they can’t pay for it, we’ll just have bad credit and then complain that the creditors are harrassing us and hire a lawyer.” Okay I’ll stop rambling…

  22. Play with sticks or other kids!?! What a concept.

    This year my sister visited our small farm (market gardening) in June! JUNE!?!?! We can visit sure, but there is a lot of work to do that time of year, and it cannot wait…

    My 13 year old neice brought a friend and they spent 90% of the time sitting on the computer IMing or texting people. They did not complain about being “bored” although they looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested taking the bikes and going for a ride, or taking a hike, or going fishing, or earning some money by helping, or… or… or…

    But my biggest suprise was my sister being so concerned about her 5 year old being bored… For one thing, although we had warned about having a lot of work to do and that it would be a bit muddy in June, every outfit she brought had a LOT of white… But I really think her mom was thinking of things through the eyes of a 30 year old and not a 5 year old.

    I remember one day when we were planting a half acre of pumpkin seeds… Walk, drop, walk drop, walk, drop… We let the 5 year old “help” for a while but she was quickly bored and wandered off… When her mom and I continoued she went to the side of the field, where we had piled some small stones, and bent down, pulled two Littlest Pet shop animals from her pocket, and started to play. She was piling the rocks, moving the dirt, and digging little holes. She found worms, discovered the Kildeer nest in our field, and found a toad.

    A couple times my sister looked around frantically “Where is she?” I pointed to her, three or four hunderd feet away. At one point I yelled to remind her to not get close to the bee hives!

    When we were done 2 hours later I thought it had been a good time, my sister and I got some stuff done, and talked while we did it. My neice seemed to have had a good enough time (although she did need a bath!) I was amazed at my sister’s response to the afternoon… “That didn’t work, Neice was SO bored! We need to go do something now, maybe a movie…”

    I really see this as an issue, a whole generation of kids who need to be actively entertained with stuff all the time, and sticks don’t count, since Walmart does not sell them…

  23. i am in a slightly different predicament here. i do not homeschool, although i am a stay at home mom. my husband grew up on a tiny farm, and worked really tough jobs to put himself through college and business school, when no one else in his family had ever gone beyond high school. he now does very well at a major nationally known company.

    however, despite all of his very hard work and our unextravagant lifestyle, we are really finding our kids’
    activities to be financially painful. unlike some of the stereotypical suburbanites described by the post-ers, we do not live vicariously through our kids’ activities and force them on our children. my daughter begged to go skating at age 2 when watching some older children doing it,and has not left the ice since! she joyfully gets up at 6 am to skate before school, reads skating books, and has made some lovely friends at her skating club. she does her homework efficiently, and is very proud of how hard she works (not with what prize she wins) when she competes.

    my son is a gifted musician, and takes jazz piano at a major conservatory that we are lucky to have in our city. he composes on his own, saves up for jazz cds and downloads, etc. He is kind of a “surf-boy/science-dude” type, and has had a harder time fitting in in our very traditional, Joe Hockey-Player state (we only moved here 2 yrs. ago). Music has been his way in to a whole new world of friends and experiences.

    it gives me no end of joy to watch my children at these events– they seem genuinely happy to be doing them,and their lives have really been enriched.

    i really don’t know that taking them out of these events would help in any way; they are getting on the old end to play only with sticks and stones, although they both love hiking, camping, and other slightly more organized “nature stuff.” (which we do).

    the issue is money. i am planning to return to work next year when my 3rd child is in all-day kindergarten, but i am a writer/editor and the pay is terrible. my husband the VP brings his little turkey sandwich lunch every day, and drives a 10-year-old car. we clean our own house and gave up vacations, cable, — basically anytyhing we could to cut corners. however, we are still being backed into a corner by the cost of the skating and the music. i wish there was some kind of scholarship for children’s activities, based on merit!! i will really be sad if i take away these joyous events in their lives, but we are really facing a turn in the road.

    it’s tragic that these activities have to cost so much! ($450/month for ice time alone!!!)

    any ideas?

  24. Adversity Builds Character?
    Even if this is true, it hardly amounts to a silver lining in the midst of bread lines and shanty towns.
    True, some kids may be forced to improvise means of entertainment for entertainment, others may be forced to improvise means of sustenance, vis. stealing cars, gangs, etc.
    Can the energy-drink-sipping, fashionable, gadget-toting brood of young people today survive on cabbage soup and canned beans? I think today’s “Emo” music is whiny enough without any inspiration from real adversity thank you.

  25. Midwest mom……I have 4 daughters in dance. For the first several years with just one and then 2 girls in dance my parents helped pay for it. Last year my dad was diagnosed with MS and had to quit working. My husband commutes an hour away for his job, I stay home and homeschool the girls and now 4 of them are in dance!!! We just are not able to afford it. So now I clean the dance studio (WITH THE HELP OF THE OLDEST 2 GIRLS….AGES 11 & 9) for 2 hours every week. I know that we are very fortunate to have this opportunity, not every activity is going to present such options. We did have to drop piano this year and I’m having the 9 year old wait another year to start band. There are a lot of other activities they would really like to do, but we just have to say no or not right now. Sometimes it is okay to take a break. And sometimes you find a way to make it work. I hope that somehow you are able to find a way to make it work.

  26. This is so true, I love your site and this is the best posting yet. I think we’re at the very peak of a cycle of insanity that will settle back down – through very uncomfortable economic times ahead.

    There is good and bad in that, and this is one of the good things…

    Blessings,

    Mark

  27. I’m sixteen and I definitely get what you’re saying here. This is the kind of parenting I’m hoping to use on my children. My stepmother has always been all for free range parenting, as I guess you’re calling it. My mother, on the other hand (whom I live with) has always been kind of stifling on that end. We live less than a mile from a mall, and until this year (when I got a job up there) I wasn’t allowed to walk up there alone. It was a pain in the butt to always get a ride to go anywhere. Not to mention the fact that I can never just say to my friends “yeah, I’ll be there to hang with you on Saturday”. It’s always “maybe, if my mommy lets me”. It makes me feel about five years old. I love my mom, but I also believe that she hasn’t let me grow in my own respect into the woman I could be. Part of why I’m so excited for college in two years is just so that I can figure out who I am and what I’m capable of, for myself…

  28. Great post Lenore! I appreciate what you, and Mark and John, up there, are saying. I’ve been afraid to say it out loud, but I think a downturn in the economy might not be such a bad thing. At least for our kids.

    Something not touched on is the sheer number of divided families out there. Unfortunately, in many of these families, there is competition and that competition is run by who can buy/do/give the most. I would love to not replace the tv and to cancel my cable. I’m holding out on not upgrading our game system. The other house has everything and if I can’t compete, at least to some small degree then I’m out of kids. They think we’re poor because we don’t have a swimming pool or a Wii or ATV’s. They have to pay for their own minutes on throw down cell phones instead of having a big pricey “family plan” with tricked out phones. We don’t go to movies often or other pricey entertainment places. We’re not poor! We have everything we need and plenty more but that’s not how kids see it. They’re sure we’re poor. Their father, however, who constantly whines about how much things cost, is happy to continue to go into debt to meet their wants and be “the good guy”. We lived much simpler before the divorce. Lots of outdoor play, no video games, no cable. I miss that.

  29. I too grew up without all the fancy bells and whistles. Kids today look at you like you have twelve heads when you tell them the telephone was connected to the wall. Or TV was in black and white. I am amazed to see huge gas guzzling SUVS lined up dropping off kids to school. The only reason you ever had your mother drive you to school is if you had a broken leg. You would surly get beat up at the flag pole. And the kids are fat. Total lack of outdoor activities. I am in the process of writing a children,s book series designed to return children to nature and the outdoors. it does not require computers or batteries or wi fi. How about teaching children to turn off the tv and go outside. if everyone is so worried about their safety,then join them. It costs nothing to study nature . Just think of al the money you can save on carpal tunnel surgery,not to mention stooped over posture from too much texting. parks are wonderful. Why does everything have to be so structured. family activities !Lets try expanding the lungs and not the cable line up. Thanks for the ear

  30. I just found your site and I’m loving it! We have eight kids with no cable TV, no x-box, no iPods and no dance formal dance classes. We do have a LOT of sticks though.

    Barb

  31. What is wrong with “travel sports”?

    Are you saying that we should find 50 girls aged 7 to 10 to form a soccer league – right here next door to us? What is wrong with hockey and paying money so your kid can enjoy it?

    My daughter, age 7, loves Soccer – and is on a team with all the kids in her class. They have fun at practice because our parents are not all intense, and they enjoy the games on the weekend. How is that a bad thing?

    My nephew played Hockey for 10 years as a kid. Now that he is an “adult” it is one of the things he misses the most.

    Why are organized sports demonized? When I was a kid in a rural area and we had no money (both parents unemployed much of my childhood) I dreamed of playing soccer or baseball. Instead all I had were crappy sticks and only one friend for 10 miles.

    Sure, I am not saying kids should be in 15 different activities. We limit our daughter to two, and she gets to pick them (although she has to finish each session once she commits – but she can “quit” after the session is over).

    Sure, kids need time to be kids and play outside with nothing. That is why our daughter has very few toys, and only really plays video games every now and then. Same with most of her friends.

    But team sports are valuable, and fun, and as long as the parents are not pushy and intense – perfectly OK.

    “Free Range” does not have to mean “Anti-Establishment”.

  32. I’ve just managed to log onto this, and it’s so refreshing to ‘meet’ other parents who are like-minded. I live in England, and believe me when I say that it is exactly the same there.

    Teachers at school tell me of their frustration when children are picked up from school and immediately go from one organised ‘class’ to another. One child I know has two back to back ‘activities’ a day after school. She’s an only child so a good way to meet others, but why not play dates or meeting up in the park with other kids to play an inpromptu game of softball? Why not great quality time with Dad after having spent all day without Dad in school?

    Igh,

    I think that children will want to keep up with their friends if they subconsciously recieve the idea that that’s what they should be doing. I meet lots of worried Mums talking about how competitive so and so is…and then being equally competitive!

    We need to look really hard at how we get our own kicks. Great to be enormously proud of our children but if we live our life through them? What huge pressure if they fail! we’ve all seen the ‘professional athletics Mum’ screaming at her child to go faster. The kids end up stressed, bad-tempered, hideously over competitive, can’t cope with failure. The most important thing to teach kids is not how to win but how to fail – that way they will do their best naturally.

    Hi from the UK – as L would say it, fight the good fight!

  33. Cheers, Look at the photos of my new emo hair style
    at http://tinyurl.com/59ps64

  34. hi! is there an email address where i might send info about having you as a featured blogger at peoplejam.com?
    thank you,
    angelo

  35. oh man!!! thank you thank you, i just stumbled on to this blog and i am a believer!!! i totally agree with everything i have read so far. i just had a friend who works in the college admissions dept tell me that parents of “kids” in college are meddling in their kids grades and admissions. they complain directly to professors who dont give their “children” good grades, complain of unfairness and basically stick their noses in what should be their “adult daughter/son’s” business. my parents didnt sign me up for college classes or talk to my professors on my behalf, what the heck is wrong with these people???? let your kid grow up!

  36. We just increased our daughter’s allowance (to a whopping $10.50 per week) but put more monetary responsibility on her.

    She has always had to buy her own toys. As a result she buys only what she absolutely can’t live without (at that very moment). When she wants a new video game, she tends to trade in an old one for credit and sticks to the second-hand rack for the “new” one. She saved up for her iPod and buys her own music.

    When we go to the fair/carnival, she has to buy her own ride tickets. It seems a little unfair, even to me, but does she really need to go on a swing that goes around and around and around? Does she really need to ride every blessed ride we pass?

    On vacation, she is responsible for buying her own souvenirs. Same goes for school and girl scout field trips. We also don’t take big vacations every year because we think vacations should be special.

    She used to bemoan her lack of a cell phone, but not anymore. Since all of her friends have them, she has learned to be a “free-rider” and borrow as needed. Once I pointed out that she has total, absolute freedom for a period of time, she liked not having one. Besides, who is she going to call? $10 a month is so not worth the two calls a month she makes to tell me they’re stuck in traffic on a field trip of some kind.

    On the one hand, it would be so great to give my daughter everything she wants. I know it hurts her a little that we could do it, but we *won’t* do it. On the other, I like that she will never lose everything because she will have the understanding that instant gratification isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  37. The comment about retooling their skateboards (or MP3) players reminded me that a lot of these sentiments are part of the philosophy behind Make magazine (and Craft magazine). I don’t work for O’Reilly, but I really like Make and have enjoyed sharing the concept with my kids, like when my son and I make a hovercraft out of an old kitchen countertop and a leaf blower. There was a recent article on their web site (also covered on Boing Boing and other places) about how Americans are likely to fall behind in science in technology because, among other things, it’s impossible to buy a decent chemistry set (chemicals are dangerous), build up your own chemistry set (if you are buying Ehlenmeyer flasks you must be running a meth lab), find decent electronic kits (kids can’t be trusted with a soldering iron), and so on.

    http://makezine.com
    http://www.craftzine.com/

  38. I also can’t resist my favorite family story about the great depression. My grandmother was born in 1920. When my dad was asked to write a paper about the Great Depression he asked his mother what it was like to live through it. She said they were so poor they didn’t know when it started or when it ended.

    As the only girl in a family with four boys and an absent father, she was pretty much self-sufficient by age 10 (and actually married at 14). That’s a little too “free-range”, but it does show how things have changed.

  39. Schools and dance recitals and stuff have decided that providing DVDs of the performances is almost a “must” because they are trying to get the parents attending to focus and leave their own camcorders at home.

    I have seen some performances where parents are crowding the aisles (can we point out the irony and yell “fire escape hazard” at them?) and getting into altercations so they can get the “best” shot of their kid for the entire performance.

    I worked in a couple of church preschools and the “official” DVD was provided as a way to get the parents to CHILL and enjoy the live performance.

  40. Regularly I do not make comments on blogs, but I have to mention that this post really forced me to do so. Really terrific post

  41. Hi, could you please post about radical games? I wrote about X-Games..my friend told me that it’s make a bad effect to kids…do u agree with him? thanks.

  42. Great post – we are not getting xboxes for the kids, playing travel sports, etc. Kids would rather go camping and spend time with us (and the feeling is definitely mutual)

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