“Money will not make you happy, and happy will not make you money.”—Groucho Marx

As James approached his tweens I knew that my days of keeping him in the imaginary bubble of protection I had created were coming to an end. I hope not to ruin it for anyone reading this, but much like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, the fantasy world of imagination and wonderment would soon give way to the let down’s of reality and the coldness of the real world. He would soon have to embrace the first of many of these unveilings in life, this was what he had to learn to deal with.

The taller he got, the more distant my sweet curly head baby boy became. I still catch way far away glimpses of him, but it is now only in the glint of our hazel green eyes we both share. It’s not in his chubby cheeks, now speckled with teen acne and a faint mustache that he is ever so proud of. It isn’t in his ticklish feet, that now stink to high heaven when he sheds his cross-country shoes.

His giggles are now replaced with grunts and his hugs are more like drive by, small token offers of affection on his way through the kitchen and back to his room…His room, also known as the cave, smells of a teenager as well. An adolescence musk that is impervious to 20 minute showers has taken the place of lavender and baby powder. This was what I had to come to terms with. My tenure of being a best friend, super hero, magical creator of sunshine and happiness had come to an end. I am now just Mom. Reduced to being the enforcer of rules, squasher of dreams, and the wet blanket voice of reason and reality.

You see what I have realized over this bridge of stages we are in the midst of is that even though he has grown past being made to believe in the magic of things just bibbity-boppity-booing themselves into existence (i.e. like that time when Santa brought him the Wii) he still has very high expectations. His take on the whole “Money Tree” growing in our back yard theory, to fund his endless list of “have to have’s” and “really need’s” is as strong as the desire the little boy had to be on the “good list”.

There is no fear of being on the naughty list! Nothing the reel the brattiness in. Nothing that could be used to nudge him back on the path of kindness through sheer fear of getting a lump of coal…or worse, socks and underwear only. Actually, that’s a good point, there is no fear of not getting every single solitary desire. The concept of money…or lack there of? Well, let’s just say has never been readjusted and re-explained, until now. Cue the drama.

“The disconnect between children’s expectations and parents’ reality may explain why 16 percent of parent respondents said they had used retirement savings to pay for college expenses and 11 percent expect to do so. ” – Peak Advisor Alliance 

2016 Parents, Kids & Money

According to a T. Rowe Price 2016 Parents, Kids & Money Survey, the topic of money falls just slightly behind sex and death as uncomfortable conversations to have with children. So, take a moment to think about that. Parents apparently, according to this study, are more comfortable talking about terrorism, drugs, stranger danger and bullying than they are finances.

It isn’t that those other topics aren’t important, they are extremely important and necessary, but so is teaching about money and how it works. More often than not we over spend to compensate for something in our children’s life. We binge buy because we want to make them happy. I am the first to admit that Santa was very kind to the children on several trips down the chimney, and just as honest about the pain and strain it put on us when the budget was tightened to make room for all that joy!

As we cross to the other side of thirteen, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that not only is it my job, but my duty as a parent to teach the kids how to respect money. I again, will be truthful with you dear readers, I did not respect the money my father spent to send me to college, buy me a car, keep me in fashion. I was a spoiled brat. At twenty, I couldn’t balance (or keep money in) a checking account. I would choose to wait for the second notice of the power bill if I needed retail therapy. Bad choices made for tough consequences. That was something that as a twenty something was incredibly hard for me to deal with and manage, because I never really had to growing up.

That “life lesson” was a hard one for me, I was ill-equipped to deal with the realities that came along with being responsible and accountable for having a life. One of the best things my Dad ever did for me was cut me off. Harsh as that sounds, it’s true. I had to earn money for the first time. Which lead to waiting tables, which let me say is the BEST thing that could ever happen to someone. Until you have scraped gum from under a table, zoom broomed cheerio’s up off carpet, carried a full bus pan with the discarded dishes from a meal you didn’t eat, you will never appreciate fully the service industry. Everyone should wait tables. It should be mandatory.

I didn’t suffer, don’t get me wrong. There were plenty….plenty of times my Dad, God rest his soul, came through for me and financially rescued me. But he also let me fall some to, and that is where the respect came from, the fall. I know we always hear about wanting to teach kids the way we grew up, but in this instance, I want to show James and Ansley now while they’re young what I wish I had known earlier, how to truly value money. That the school trips, favorite restaurants, ordered pizza’s, cell phones and wi-fi are luxuries and should be treated as such, not just taken for grated.

I know we as parents love our kids and want to always do what’s best for them, but I think we need to look at it in better ways. Sort of the “teach a boy to fish” mentality. Spending our money is too easy. It’s pain-free and has no impact. But to save, and earn their own money to get what their little hearts desire will help with two things. One, they’ll take care of it better because they have vested interest in it, and two they will have a sense of pride that they earned it.

This is a fascinating survey. I encourage all of you to use the link above and read through it. It shocked me and made me aware of the fact that what I give my children today needs to be my time, my love and my encouragement that they be good people, not my money.

If my role for a time is to be the bad guy, the one that says no more often than yes, so be it. James is a teenager. This too shall pass. I keep telling myself that. He may not have the latest, greatest gadget, or wear the fancy brand named clothes. He will survive and down the road when he realizes that I’m not as moronic and mean as he thinks I am right now, he will hopefully thank me for not having to let him fall in order for him to fly.