When talking to your kids about the economy, try the truth
Exhibit One: A preteen who declared last week that she's getting a Blackberry for Christmas.
OK, so $100 isn't so bad if it's the bulk of the holiday allotment. But then consider that the monthly bill's eat at least $80 -- that's if the kid can keep it to 15 minutes a day. Plus seniority will dictate that an older sibling deserves a Blackberry if the younger one is allowed. And consider that one of the kids' parents just lost a job and the other works in a recession-sensitive business.
The kids know that, but they seem a little unaware of the impact of not having as much money coming in.
That's a choice some parents are making today.
"Eventually, they will grow up and face the same stress and challenges we all face," a parent told The Associated Press. "What's wrong with spoiling them now? These sweet-spirited innocent years are so fleeting."
It's a choice some experts even advise.
Marybeth Hicks, a Washington Times columnist and author of "Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World," recently told MSNBC that parents don't do enough to shelter kids from harsh realities.
“Parents of very young children — up to age 7 — ought to simply reassure their children that the economy often goes through big changes, and that the family will always work together to take care of everyone’s needs.”
Except that would never fly with Big Guy. He's already seen the impact around him -- Mommy's staying at home and friends are moving from two-story houses to apartments. So I've opted to tell the guys the truth.
Why did it happen?
Well, a bunch of silly people spent more money than they had on big houses, pricey cars and expensive vacations. A bunch of other people -- business folks and bankers -- who were either crazy or crooked helped them. Mommy worked in a business that's failed to get its technological poop in a group for a decade or more. Everything went boom.
Even I admit that's a little too much to lay on a 5-year-old. So I sanitize.
Mommy's not working at her office anymore, so money's a little tight. We can't afford to do everything we used to do, but we'll still have fun. And I'll be able to pick you up after school.
Most days he accepts that. He'll pout once in a while because he doesn't get his weekly McDonald's trip -- who says there aren't big benefits to the downturn -- but he recovers quickly as long as he's offered an alternative.
A few weeks ago, he was ticked when I nixed a trip to the donut shop.
"Let's make our own instead."
"Oh, come on, you can't make donuts at home."
"Oh yes, I can. Pumpkin ones, even."
Saturday, he was steamed briefly because he didn't get to go the mall with his aunt. He recovered quickly, though, when he remembered there were ripe lemons in the backyard just waiting to be made into lemonade. That project -- and the accompanying cleanup -- occupied the rest of the evening.
Tonight he was a bit put out because he'll have to limit his Santa list to four items.
"Four? Just four?"
"Yes, but if you make it four good things, you'll have plenty to play with. So think hard."
As long as Santa remembers to stuff his stocking with caffeine-free diet Pepsi -- the only one he's legally allowed all year, though I know his grandmother sneaks around the ban all the time -- and people come over for "his party" he'll be fine.
We all will. Especially now that we're making fewer McDonald's trips.
Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.