Over the years we have really tried to be teaching our kids about money (it’s an ongoing process of course): the value, how to save, how to stay out of debt, how to be responsible with it. Hence why I did my blog money series.
Rob and I also talked a lot when we got together about how we wanted to raise our kids when it came to things like money, and the bigger picture of “entitlement” (an excellent resource book is the one I talked about here). Having had 2 marriages between us under our belt, we did not want to make some of the financial mistakes that had burdened us when we got together, so we made very clear decisions on our finances.
This included of course staying out of debt, saving and spending a lot on vacations, ensuring our future was as secure as we could plan for while still living well now, setting aside some money for future education for the kids, and providing a modest allowance for the kids.
We also agreed that “Gifts” for the kids would be primarily given for Birthdays, and Christmas or at our discretion. The occasional spontaneous gift is fun, but gone are the days of just asking – or really expecting- a gift.
We also agreed that life on weekends and during the week would revolve around simple activities. Spending time together (or the occasional one on one date), arts, crafts and projects at home, cooking together, playing sports together and watching a show or movie while having a family room sleepover. We wanted to ensure we had lots of down town time for the kids to just be creative and play together. Sundays would also be “electronic free” which would force some creative juices.
Activities such as going to the movies, amusement parks, museums, shows, bowling, or even out for dinner were going to be reserved as “special” and done occasionally throughout the year. We felt strongly that constantly stimulating and entertaining made for “diluted” experiences (become expected and not special) and entitled kids.
Of course, when you make decisions like these, you KNOW you will get scrutinized from the “other side” (e.g. The ex). Especially since this is a completely different approach than at her house during “her time”.
However, we don’t need to be “the same” and have just focused on how we want to raise our children in our home.
But somewhere along the way the message seeps in that “one house is better” than the other. One house is the “strict house” (and I’ll admit that’s our house but I personally think that’s a good label to have anyways:)), one house is “more fun” and one house “is where the children prefer”.
We’ve actually witnessed some of these “suggested ideas” first hand. Last year Rob overheard a conversation between Sam and his Mom (Sam had forgotten to hang the phone up after calling Rob) where she was saying things to Sam like “Your Dad is so cheap, he never buys you anything, he doesn’t take you anywhere, keeps it all for himself”. Of course when Rob called her on it, she didn’t even deny it (because she couldn’t) but stated an example where Sam was concerned about making sure he brought to our house some of his money that he got for Christmas because he had to pay us back for something he bought. Her comment was “I don’t know what it is about your house but he’s scared that he has to make sure he repays you, I don’t know what it is….”.
Yah. He likes your house better. He likes you better. He hates being at his Dad’s. He hates his stepmom. They don’t do anything fun with him. He is sad and deprived when he is at his Dad’s and all he can talk about is his Mom.
Would that make you feel better if we told you that?
Because you can think it. And you can try to force feed it to the kids. And you can revel in feeling like the preferred parent, if you need to.
But the reality is – we were thrilled that Sam was concerned about remembering the money. We had just talked about how he was planning to remember, and he had come up with some great strategies. We had talked about not getting “in debt” and the importance of paying people back. He was thrilled that we praised him for being responsible and dependable – and independent. And the little item that he had purchased and owed us money for, you can bet he took better care of it than the million other things he is handed. Mission accomplished on our side of things!
And the other reality? He actually likes being here – just as much as he likes being at his Mom’s.
You can try to convince yourself otherwise if it makes you feel better, but I am really guessing that children don’t have a clear preference of one home vs another. Now they may like “certain things” better: a particular tradition, or a meal, or a rule, or an activity. But they just learn to associate those “things” to your house.
I worried at first too that our house would be viewed as second best, primarily due to the fact that it is admittedly “the strict house”! But then, I thought of my own preferences.
Did I prefer having all 5 children , 3 of them, 2 of them, or no one?
I love all of it – and sometimes don’t like all of it.
I love the family of 7, and there are many activities we will only do as 7.
But having days and nights with fewer kids allow us to have the individual time that is so badly needed too.
Then couple time? It’s such an amazing thing to have a built in date every week and down time together – and on our own.
Do I miss all or some (depending on the circumstance) of them when they aren’t around? Of course!But I also know they are spending time at their other home – and loving it too.
So, I can’t say I have a clear preference. Each “scenario” has its pluses and minuses. But we have a little groove and routine we get into with each scenario, so I always look forward to that. And honestly, I don’t think of what I’m missing anymore. Just focus on what I love about being in the moment I’m in.
I think our kids must feel this way too : not a strong preference, but a mode, groove, routine and set of behaviors they get into. Some things they like, some they don’t. There are likely times in their life that they will prefer one vs another. But we all know that sometimes our preferences don’t always lead to what is actually good for us in the long run anyhow.
And I imagine if your kids DO indicate a strong preference, you may need to check in with yourself to see if they are telling you this because YOU need to hear it (especially if you are hearing stories about the wicked stepmom:)) But likely once they calm your insecurities and feed your ego (not their job, by the way, but something they learn to do from a young age unfortunately), they go skipping off to enjoy the things they love about their other home.
So let’s try to break this competition too. Let’s celebrate the different routines, and the different opportunities that “differences” provide us! Let’s try to remember that kids love their two homes and not worry about competing. It will make everyone a lot happier in the long run.
And I imagine as they grow and then start families of their own, they will take from each home all the things they “like” and create their own family culture. I’m sure then they may appreciate what they have learned from their two homes.