Monday, August 22, 2011

Parenting on a Budget

"We went to Disneyland." "Our family went to Europe." "We spent the summer at our cottage on the beach." Hm. I'm getting a little tired of this. "We have season tickets to the theatre." "We went on a shopping spree." Argh! Get off my back!!!!!

Not all parents experience this lack of funds to buy what they want or to go where they want. Their summers are filled with camps, horses, vacations, etc. Well, darn it, folks, our summer has been on a budget. It's hard keeping our chins up when it seems like the rest of my grandchildren's friends are off enjoying every minute with rich abandon. Old memories of the financial struggle raising my children hits me between the eyes once more. Sometimes I think I have always been way below middle America since it seems most of other kids' parents have money.

So what do we parents and grandparents do? How do we compete? Well, first off, we don't. Life is what it is, but that being said, it does not mean that it is less bad, ah, badder....um, worse! Perhaps we are in essence giving more than what money can buy.

We discovered nearby a wilderness trail, er trails. Only about five minutes from home, we can start the trail overlooking the valley. A big sign announces that there just might be a mountain lion....rare, but possible. I tell the girls that we are to stand tall, look big, flap our arms and roar. After they finish laughing, they inform me that I can do it. They plan to be standing behind me. In case of a bear, we are to play dead. Dead!?!? You would have thought I was suggesting us offering a meal all laid out for a hungry bear.

"Bears don't eat meat."

"What about us?"

"We are meat. Be quiet and play dead."

"But...."

"Stop talking; let's walk. We will have fun."

A local park is designed with a row of fountains. Parents and children flock to the park. The girls wear bathing suits with t-shirts over them. We take food, water, cards and beach towels.

"Don't take your shirts off," I tell the girls as they dash to the fountains. I have some alone time with a book

They stop. "Why?"

"Because we don't know who hangs around the fountains. There could be someone who means harm to children. I just want you safe."

My alone time was short.

This is not to say that we don't have fun. We do. The girls put shows on for me. They dance, sing and catapult themselves across the lawn ending in splits that are aptly named. The school is always available if we want to take tennis rackets and hit the balls off the back wall. Millie's bathing/wading pool comes in handy for a quick cool off. Sometimes even rearranging a room holds interest.

"Grammy, will it ever be like it was?" What do I say?

Maybe we can't offer riches, we who parent on a budget. Maybe we can't offer big gifts and rewards. But one thing I am absolutely sure of is that we can give the children our creative thinking, gifts of the heart, memories from the past and the present. We can open a box of pictures and giggle for hours. We can play school or have acting classes. A batch of cookies or a loaf of bread offers snacks and loads of fun.

I applaud all of us who are raising children. Those of us who seek answers and create a safe, inventive world for our children. Those who might not want to be in the circumstances that control their purse strings, but who are in circumstances to change the world one child at a time.

Parenting on a budget starts with a parent who says, "I can do it."

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