Today’s selections from my virtual mailbag come from mothers who, on the one hand, are facing altogether different dilemmas but, on the other, are much alike in that they want the very best for their children.
Dear Mary: My biggest budget busters are enrichment activities for our four children. I want to spark their joy for living by providing opportunities to sample different sports and hobbies.
Currently, they attend a private school that is academically aggressive. Each takes piano lessons. The boys take karate and the girls, ballet. They are also involved in sports and theatre productions at school, none of which is free. We are a one-income family and I stay home with the children. Our finances are very tight, and we use credit to make it through every single month. It sounds simple enough just to put our children in public school and drop all the extras, but my mommy guilt says NO. I want the best for my kids. Any advice? Tricia, New York
Dear Tricia: The definition of guilt is “remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense.” You have not committed any offense so I don’t think this is about guilt. You most likely fear failing as a parent by not providing experiences and opportunities for your kids.
Experts tell us it is not good for kids to be overstimulated by things or activities. You can simultaneously push kids to the brink of despair by over involving them in sports, music, karate, dance, and academia.
That you are going into debt to enable all of this is even more troubling. Parents’ best gift to their children is to prepare well for their own retirement and end-of-life years so they never become a burden to their children.
Twenty years from now, your worth as a parent will not be measured by the number of activities, SAT scores, or trophies. It will be measured by the depth of their character, the values they hold dear, and the ways they live their lives. As for school, don’t ever assume a public or private secular or Christian teacher can take your place when it comes to passing values to your children.
I suggest you allow each child to pick one activity and then make sure they have plenty of free time just to be kids. As for schools, have you explored charter schools available through your public school system? There are many excellent options out there. Let me encourage you to stay involved, no matter where your kids are enrolled, so you are actively on top of everything going on and being taught.
Thanks for writing. It was great to hear from you.
Fiancé won’t work
Dear Mary: My daughter is engaged to a man who refuses to find a job. He is 23 and lives with his parents. My daughter pays all of their dating expenses, her car payment, and insurance. He sleeps until noon, plays computer games all day and then waits for her to pick him up. She is expecting me to pay for their wedding. I say I’m not putting one solitary dime into a wedding to a man who won’t work. What do you think? Kendra, Illinois
Dear Kendra: Hold your ground and tell your daughter why you cannot support this wedding or marriage. Is there a therapist or family counselor she would speak with? For some reason, she is willing to settle for so little in a husband and father for her children. I hope she figures it out before she makes the biggest mistake of her life.