Let’s be honest: most all of us want better for our children than we had as kids. We’ve all thought about it. We’ve all aspired to it, or at least attempted this much. Whether it’s in our relationships, materialistically, or even in the opportunities we were given (or not given), almost everyone wants better for their own kids.
My hand is raised, because I’m one of those people. Guilty as charged. Even though I was raised in a charmed household, I still strive to give my own children the things I went without. Admittedly, those things are primarily materialistic.
And boy has that come back to bite me.
In the beginning, it didn’t seem like spoiling. I felt my kids were deserving, and rewarding them brought me as much pleasure as they got out of being rewarded. It seemed harmless at first. Honestly, it also felt like the mainstream thing to do. Parenting became a “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” sort of game.
Once my children started living in two households, half time with their dad and half time with me, it felt like even more of a give and take. What dad had at his house, it only felt right I should afford them the same privileges at mine. Right? That’s only fair.
If my son can’t log onto Fortnite to play with his classmates because I don’t have a PlayStation at my house, it’s almost like I’m taking something away from him. If my daughter has a Kindle at her dad’s house, but not at mine, there’s an unjust sort of imbalance. Right?
This is a logical train of thought, no?
So, not only was I attempting to project my own ideal childhood onto them, but I also started this strange unspoken competition between myself and my ex AND the rest of society.
Essentially, I’ve created little want-monsters who need their humility and graciousness checked more often than I’d like. My kids, at times, can be testy and sassy and unappreciative. They bicker and fuss and fight with each other some days from dusk until dawn.
It all came to a head one Sunday morning.
Sunday, a day of rest and recharge, was loudly interrupted by an all too common dispute regarding the abundance of technology in my home. I was fed up. I was tired of policing and umpiring and breaking up meaningless squabbles.
I instituted what became known as The 1995 Rule.
I explained to my kids that since they couldn’t get along, and since they’d forgotten how fortunate they were, they were going to have to live as I did in 1995. I didn’t have a PlayStation or a Kindle. I wasn’t gifted an iPod or laptop. There was no Netflix or Disney Plus.
So, that Sunday they went without. Back to 1995 they went. That is how they lived for the day, without the things that they’d so easily taken for granted.
Do you know what happened? My children played the way I did back in 1995. They played together without fighting. They played board games. They made up role-playing games. They used their imaginations. They went outside and got dirty.
And they survived. We all survived.
Our “time-traveling” also made me reevaluate. Were our technological gluttony and my unrelenting need to enhance my kids’ childhoods slowly consuming us? This idea I had of bettering my children’s lives seemed to be an unforgiving venture. In all my giving, I’d also taken away the purest most nostalgic aspect of their childhood:
Within the infuriating hold that is boredom, 10-year-old me was blessed with my most memorable times. Boredom offered me creativity. And I caught a glimpse of that in my children on that first day of the 1995 Rule. I saw them creating games and memories as a result of their own boredom.
The moral of the story is, whether a childhood is fulfilled or left wanting is a matter of context and opinion. I could give my children the world on a platter, but they could still find opportunities for betterment. So, why not show them the most beautiful parts of my childhood rather than giving them what I felt I was lacking?
And for me, the strongest, happiest memories of my childhood were simple, self-made ones. They didn’t have a price tag or made to compete against social standards.
The memories were all mine. And soon, they will be theirs, too.
Have you ever tried something like my 1995 Rule? How did it turn out for your family?
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