My daughter, Alli, came to me at the end of the fall last year, and was excited, yet prepared for a “No” answer to the question she was bursting to ask. Her 8th grade class was taking a trip over Memorial Day weekend to Washington, D.C. She was dying to be one of the kids reserving a spot the next week on the bus. Only 40 spots were open and a few for parents. She wanted me to go as a chaperone with her.
She knew how tight to the line we live. She knew it was a big dollar amount. She knew it wasn’t lying around to throw her way. She knows we say no to eating out all the time, other little extras, so how could I tell her what she wanted to hear? It was written in her eyes.
Standing with her feet barely able to keep still, her eyes flashing, her squeals barely contained, my heart wanted to give her everything she desired. I wanted to say YES, of COURSE we will go, you can go, how can you NOT go?
But I didn’t. I said something better.
I said: “OK.”
She looked at me and cocked her head slightly to the side. Her eyes searched and found the answer. She announced it before I had to, “I’ll do what it takes to get there.” I nodded. That’s all I needed.
“WE will do what it takes to make it happen then.” With that the deal was sealed. I signed forms and we got our ducks in a row, and she began planning and scheming. She would do whatever it took to make the trip happen. That means earning the money to go. I would make the down payment for her.
Our kids don’t get an allowance. The reason is two-fold. One, we flat-out don’t have extra to hand them to say, “Here, learn how to manage money with this.” Two, I believe kids should do chores to make a house run simply because the house needs to run, not because they do a chore. I don’t get a dime for doing laundry or dishes or making dinner. That’s just life. They should learn that early. A job well done, done right the first time so you don’t have to repeat it, that is reward enough in and of itself. Harsh? Maybe… but it’s a cold hard fact of real life out here in the adult world. It works for us. And in the end, our kids know that money is not something we throw around, it is hard to come by and it is earned by working your tooshie off for it.
I went to D.C. in high school and I too earned my money to go. It meant the world to me knowing I had earned the right to go, to be there, to experience it all.
Alli has babysat, worked odd jobs, cleaned houses, cared for horses and helped do carriage rides downtown in the freezing cold of winter. She’s earned nearly every dime of the $800 of her ticket and mine to D.C. What she didn’t earn was Christmas money she saved instead of spent. She won’t forget a second of this trip. She’s earned every minute of the experience.
So many times I have been frustrated as we tried to hand experiences to our kids only to have them barely acknowledge them while they were there. When they have to earn the trip, to feel the effort, the dollars, the investment, they take in the experience in a completely different way.
Alli is so excited she could pop. She is counting down the days. She and I will share a room, her choice, and she is proud that she is treating ME to four days and three nights in DC. She is paying for every bite of food she and I put in our mouths and every bus and subway we sit on. She wanted me there and she got me there. She wanted to be there and she got herself there. The confidence this has given her is not only striking, I’d dare say it is life-changing for her. She just proved to herself something she had no idea she could do.
Alli has a personality that matches her soccer position. She is full on, “I dare you to try and get one past me,” in life, and she just gained the confidence to say, I can do ANYTHING, no matter what stands in my way.
She was recently selected to go on an international trip abroad, for a three-week intensive program of learning and growing. She asked me, “Can I go?”
I looked her in the eye, squared her up, and said, “OK.” She grinned. I winked and said, “We will MAKE it happen.” With that, she knew what she needed to do. The next goal? Add a zero to that dollar figure. She has a year to come up with $8,000 dollars and I have NO question that she will do it. Why? Because she already proved to herself that there is NOTHING she can’t do if she wants to do it bad enough. She’s already planning and thinking of projects to do to earn money to go. The life lessons will be endless, and she is 14 years old. Where will she be by 24? The world has no idea what’s coming its way. No idea.
Sometimes, really, the best thing you can do for your kids is to not give them the world. Instead, give them the key to owning it, all by themselves.