Friday, October 17, 2008

Not Much Money? Make Do

As a single mom I didn't have a lot of money to spend on "stuff" for my 4 girls. I usually made things, or did things with them, even though I had to work. They all had chores, and were responsible for getting their laundry together and down to the car when we made a laundromat run. I even had them *gasp* fold their own clothes. In spite of all the perceived lacks, my girls have grown up, and turned out well.

What amazed me was a conversation one daughter (C) shared that she'd had with a best friend (G) from Jr high. Both of G's parents worked, and gave her lots of "stuff", but never spent much time with her. Back then, C envied all the neat stuff G had. G loved to visit our house, whether C was home or not. G told C she wished I was her mom, because I spent time with my girls, and taught them neat things. Her mom was always to tired or busy to spend any time with her. It was an eye opener for C.

C also explained why she and another sister were so often invited to birthday parties. Not so much because they were popular, but because the ~presents~ were so popular. C gave as example a large zippered pencil pouch I made from upholstery vinyl scraps. I put some pencils, some pens, a small scissors, an eraser and a little stapler kit inside. She told me all her friends wanted one. *chuckle* The friends all envied her homemade book covers, too.

Oh, and the word "No" meant just that. I hear kids in the grocery store whining to Mom that they want this, they want that. At that time I had a very fixed budget. If the girls wanted something they saw at the grocery, and I said No, then all the whining in the world would not shift me. So they didn't whine. On the other hand, if I thought the wanted item was reasonable, I'd say "yes, but you have to choose things to put back that equal its cost." (real world math lesson here) Then they had to negotiate among themselves what to put back, and the choice had to be unanimous, although I had final say whether the swap happened. One time C wanted a box of sugary name brand cereal, and suggested putting back my instant coffee. I looked at her and asked, "Do you ~really~ want to deal with me in the morning when I've had no coffee?" She promptly left my coffee alone, and chose something else to negotiate.
They were disappointed in the cereal. It wasn't as good as they thought it would be, it was gone in two days, and they missed the items whose place it took.

Since we were on such a tight budget, we very seldom went out to eat, but about once a month, on Saturday morning, I'd let them eat out, in my kitchen. I made up hand written menus with "My Eatery" at the top, and listed all the possible breakfasts I was willing to make that morning. I set out place mats, water glasses and silverware rolled up in a napkin. I gathered the girls at the table, (picture them as 4, 6, 8 and 10) handed the menus around and announced, "I am your server this morning. Our specials this morning are.... May I get you something to drink now?"
I'd get their drinks, (they could order coffee, and get a grown up teacup a quarter filled with coffee and three quarters milk. Likewise with tea.) and take their orders, and treat them like grown up ladies. I know this was a hit with them, because in later years they told me so.

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