If I can be completely truthful here, I was pretty spoiled as a child. I may have had parents who were divorced and a Mom who battled her own demons and a million other external factors that made me feel awkward and insecure and incapable of, well, being a remotely capable social being. The one thing I did not lack as a child was gifts. I’m not referring to the gifts that saw me in the “gifted class” and skipping third grade but the gifts I received at Christmas and on my birthday. Or at many other times throughout the year. My sister and I wanted for nothing. Part of may have been my Mom’s desire to be seen as the “better parent” after the divorce but a lot of it, I choose to believe, is because she really wanted us to have everything we asked for. Even if it meant taking out a loan at Christmas in order to do so.

I moved in with my Dad and Step mom when I was thirteen and things didn’t work quite the same way. I had to clean my bathroom once a week (sometimes twice in one day; my Step mom wasn’t going to let me coast) and I was in charge of cleaning the kitchen every night, wiped counter tops and swept floor included. I was given an allowance that was dependent on other chores related to the family business and that was the extent of my spending money until I went and got myself a job. I started out at Radio Shack and then moved up (Ha!) to Dairy Queen and then to the City Campground and so forth. We still celebrated Christmas and my birthday and I lacked for nothing, but I wasn’t spoiled.

I am forever grateful that my Eldest Child status and their training taught me the value of hard work and of the money that I earned.

I married another Eldest Child and He Of The Dutch Background is even stingier with money than I am. Well, he was. Ten (almost eleven!) years into this marriage and he’s learned to loosen the reins a little. Sometimes what you love outweighs the unknown future.

When we started this parenting journey, we vowed not to spoil our children. We wanted our kids to know the value of money and to be grateful for what they have and to not be those kinds of kids (and adults) who think that the world owes them. We slipped up a bit in the first few years, with both of us coming home with “just one more” present and with grandparents who would search high and low for deals so that they could get as many presents as possible within their budget. After one year where Christmas seemed a bit MUCH, we pulled the reins in. We buy each of our kids one “big” present and a couple of smaller presents. Oh! And the stocking full of Pez dispensers and Life Saver “books” and mandarin oranges. The Grandparents have been asked to rein it in as well, and they have. Because they get it.

I think, based on the fact that we are constantly teaching our kids the value of money (allowance, etc.) and that, no, they do not always get what they want and that Christmas is about Jesus and that the presents are just a reminder of His gift and that while you may ask for presents for your birthday or other holidays, those requests are not a given…that our kids get it. Most of the time. They are not perfect and they are the ripe old ages of eight, six and FOUR, so you cannot expect them to be perfectly reasonable all of the time. Heck. I’m thirty-five and I’m not perfectly reasonable all of the time.

For their ages, though, I think they’ve got a pretty good grasp on finances and presents and they do not think that the world owes them anything. They say excuse me and please and I’m sorry and thank you and you’re welcome and I love you, Mommy without provocation. They’re good kids, these babies of mine. And that’s not just my parental bias talking. The majority of it is their temperament and the fact that they are no longer toddlers and I’d like to think that a little bit of the credit goes to the time and effort that Matthew and I spend teaching them lessons and correcting bad attitudes and encouraging them to be the neat kids that they were destined to be.

This is part of the reason that I am so excited to surprise our kids with a trip to Disneyland (tomorrow!). We’ve told them that we’d probably go after Emily turns five (this coming October) and they could see that made sense – she’d need to be tall enough. Never mind the fact that she towers over most kids her age and is tall enough for the majority of the rides. They are not expecting this trip, at all, but we wanted to do it for them and for us as a family. To revel in the magic and the sunshine and the fun.

That’s a big part of parenting, I think. You teach and you train and you correct and you raise them in the way they should go. And then, when they least expect it, you shower them with something that they would never expect. It makes all of the hard stuff worth it.

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  1. Hannah January 3, 2011 1:09 am edit

    Have a GREAT time!!!
    .-= Hannah´s last blog ..Twenty eleven =-.

  2. Eric's Mommy January 3, 2011 5:04 am edit

    The kids are going to LOVE the surprise!! Have fun at Disneyland!

  3. K January 3, 2011 6:24 am edit

    I’m so excited for your surprise trip to Disney (and Cali!). I’m sure you will all have a fantastic time!! I hope you capture their faces on camera when you tell them the news!
    .-= K´s last blog ..NYE =-.

  4. angella January 3, 2011 12:29 pm edit

    That’s the plan! :)

  5. kakaty January 3, 2011 8:33 am edit

    Our gift giving falls along the same lines – one big, 2-3 small and a few items in the stocking (this year both kids had stockings full of books – we are nerds).

    You kids are going to flip! How fun to surprise them with a trip they will always remember. I’m all about the gifting of experiences over things. How are you going to break it to them? I think if I were doing the same thing that I would try to not tell them until we got to the airport. But I doubt I’d be able to not burst with the news before that. Have so much fun!

  6. angella January 3, 2011 12:33 pm edit

    We have to leave tomorrow and drive to Vancouver (4 hours away) to stay over (we fly out of Van at 8:30 am Wed., so have to be there at 6:30 am) so…the plan is to tell them after school tomorrow before we get in the van and drive to the Coast. Yippee! :)

  7. Melissa January 3, 2011 8:46 am edit

    That is the best kind of gift! Have a wonderful time!

  8. Tanya January 3, 2011 9:06 am edit

    I’m sure the reaction of all the kids wil be worth it, then on top of that an amazing trip! Can’t wait for you to share the details! You are taping the announcement, right!?

  9. Lisa January 3, 2011 10:01 am edit

    I’m so excited for you guys! I hope you tape their reaction too. Have a great time. :)
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Sunrise-1 – Me-1 =-.

  10. Kristabella January 3, 2011 10:15 am edit

    I can’t wait to see what their reactions are! So exciting!!
    .-= Kristabella´s last blog ..2010- A Recap =-.

  11. Danica January 3, 2011 12:11 pm edit

    We spent waaaay too much money on our kids at Christmas for the last two years. Last year it was because it was the first year we were able to. We’ve been so poor for so long, there was so much joy that day that the two of us went together to town and spent and spent and spent all our money on anything we thought would delight them.
    This year was our second year that we had means. I initially thought we should cap our spending as not to create an annual habit of spoiling. But no. Spoil we did.
    We did not, however, spend a penny on credit to do so. We came out of the holidays with extra money in our savings account. And the money we did spend went to practical things – I bought a ton of clothing for them. Computer desks for their rooms, etc. The toys that we bought were more ‘doing’ things, – art supplies, games etc, that just ‘stuff’. So I feel pretty good about it.
    Also, as soon as my classes start up next week we’re starting a new thing around here which will have them participating a lot more in upkeep of our home. They’ve always been helpful when we ask, but it is going to be more about responsibility and regular, involved participation now.
    (And I’m secretly planning a Disneyland trip of our own for the spring of 2012. Wheee!)
    .-= Danica´s last blog ..2010 stats Neat Thanks Readers! =-.

  12. sizzle January 3, 2011 12:14 pm edit

    I loved going to Disneyland as a kid. Lucky for us, we lived a short plane ride or long(er) car ride to it. I have some really great memories of it. I know your kids are going to flip out and you’re all going to have a super blast. I can’t wait to hear about it!
    .-= sizzle´s last blog ..I’m Gonna Let It Shine =-.

  13. Laura Radniecki January 3, 2011 1:01 pm edit

    Oh, this post is so awesome. Your philosophy on it all is about as perfect as I can imagine. Your kids are going to be so excited; I wish I could hear their squeals when they know where they are going!

    Matt and I are flying to CA tomorrow too! We are going to visit his Dad and family in Sacramento and heading down to San Diego for the majority of the week/end. I’m excited to escape the ice and snow we have here!

    Have a great trip and smooth travel!
    .-= Laura Radniecki´s last blog ..Erin and Zack – A Brainerd- MN Wedding Sneak Peek =-.

  14. Kami January 3, 2011 1:11 pm edit

    Fully agreed! Can’t wait to hear their reaction!
    .-= Kami´s last blog ..Merry Christmas! =-.

  15. rebecca January 3, 2011 1:38 pm edit

    Have an absolutely WONDERFUL time!!!

  16. Mrs. Wilson January 3, 2011 1:55 pm edit

    I could comment on a bunch of aspects here, but I think I’ll just give it a big AMEN. It’s my BIGGEST pet peeve when I come across children (and grownups) who think the world owes them a favor. DRIVES ME NUTS.

    I’m also an oldest child, as is Noah. We both grew up the same way – we had to work for what we got. I’m grateful for it, and we’re raising our kids the same way.

    Now, as for completely blowing them out of the water with a huge surprise like Disneyland? I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR ABOUT HOW IT GOES!!
    .-= Mrs. Wilson´s last blog ..Grace in Small Things- Sunday Edition 6 =-.

  17. ChrisB January 3, 2011 3:22 pm edit

    You’d better have the video camera all lined up for this one!!!
    .-= ChrisB´s last blog ..Grace in Small Things – 36 =-.

  18. Ninabi January 3, 2011 4:20 pm edit

    I’m grinning about the awesome surprise you have planned for your children- what a joy as a parent to see the looks on their faces when you tell them where the family is headed. You MUST tell us all about your Disneyland adventure when you get back- enjoy this sweet time in your lives!
    .-= Ninabi´s last blog ..Day 6 of 30 days Something I hope never to do =-.

  19. Sarah January 3, 2011 5:21 pm edit

    My first trip to Disneyland was when I was four. You guys are going to have SO much fun!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..2011 or one more year until the world ends Or something =-.

  20. Lisa January 4, 2011 2:06 pm edit

    You are absolutely right. I LOVE doing things for the kids when its unexpected and they deserve it for just being great kids.

    Have a fantastic time!!

  21. hillary January 4, 2011 3:15 pm edit

    You are going to have so much fun! Can’t wait to hear all about it.
    .-= hillary´s last blog ..I See Hope Is Here In A Plastic Box Ive Seen Christmas Lights Reflect In Your Eyes =-.

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