If you are a parent, you have probably heard, “Everybody has one!” One can be whatever the fad or trend is for whatever age group you may be dealing with at the time. I heard this with the trading cards I refused to buy and all of the things related to at least two popular kids fads when my kids were younger. Once, I refused to spend money on one popular kids’ trend because I thought the books and subsequent films were too dark. I believed I was saving them from some darkness that made me live and dream in fear. I told them stories from my childhood about my nightmares and fear of walking outside to the car at night because I was allowed to watch horror thrillers on tv. Those monsters that lived in the dreams of folks in the movies and the monsters traveling down neighborhood streets wreaking havoc on unsuspecting residents kept me looking over my shoulder and dreaming about craziness when I should have been getting my beauty sleep. I just didn’t want my kids to deal with the visions of monsters created by cinema while they slept.
I refused to buy some stuff because I thought it wasn’t worth the money or because it would be a waste of their time. Mean mama you say. Well, that’s why they call me mama because I get to make those executive decisions. Shoot, I would often feed my mama ego by asking my kids, “What’s my name?” They would shake their heads and roll their eyes and say, “Mama.” “You dang skippy and don’t forget it,” would be my reply (with a giggle and smirk.) Heck, I will still ask them the question, albeit more rhetorical now, since they are both grown for all intents and purposes. The only thing I may have left to fuel the mama ego now is that they still need me for some pocket change.
Well, fast forward to middle school when the “Everybody has one” mantra got louder and more frequent. I heard it when I refused to buy cell phones in the sixth grade. “Everybody has one,” they proclaimed. “Well, no everybody doesn’t have one, cuz you don’t,” said I. Harsh, but true. One time a friend and neighbor said to me that she didn’t know how I could say no to my daughter. She said that she had trouble with no where her kids were concerned because they cry. Hmmm. Well, my response to her was, “They stop crying.” While they are crying and when they stop crying, you have to explain to them your rationale. With many things like cell phones, clothing options with too much spandex, pants choices that lead to sagging, and a ticket to a horror movie at a young age, my discussion was always the same: Everything available to you is not always good for you. (I didn’t make that up, by the way; it’s in the book of Proverbs.) I would say to my kids, “I am on your team.” All of my decisions were for their good. I would also tell them that the decision I made at the time might not always be the decision when they got older and had a better understanding about the world and the dangers. Honestly, I was not and am not the parent who wants to spend my time surveying phone logs to see who kids are calling or texting. So, I decided they couldn’t have one until I could trust them with one. The same was true for social media accounts, messaging accounts, and picture mail. When they were allowed to have social media accounts, the task of keeping them safe online was assigned to the villagers. Villagers checked in on my daughter and my daughter was required to maintain access to my son’s accounts at all time or he would lose them. They got some freedom from parental control, but there was still what I like to call “a safety net” and if anything got out of control I would hear from a villager about the issue. I was cool with the fact that the villagers rarely gave details to violate a confidence of my kids, but they shared enough so that I could have a discussion about the matter that concerned them.
“Everybody” also had the capacity to watch videos in their cars. Well, everybody except us. I only allowed movie watching on long trips. When I was in the car with my kids, that time was for us to pay attention to each other. When the car doors close, the magic happened. They told me all about school and who did what and who said what to who. I got to ask questions about the school day and find out who had homework or events on the calendar that required my attention. We listened to music and radio commentary together that sometime led to them teaching me a few things. I remember once they taught me a dance that went with a song and I got caught at a red light gettin’ it. I remember the roar of laughter in my car and in the car full of young boys next to us when I realized everybody was looking at me doing the latest dance craze. I cherished the rides in the car and honestly I still do (even if I have to share them with those evil handheld devices now :-)).
My parents used to talk about “keeping up with the Jones’s” when I was younger. I tried to make sure there was a balance for my kids between having some things that made them feel like they fit in with their peers and making sure they understood the things in life that everybody really needs. Everybody needs the basic things like food, clothing, and shelter, but I am talking about those intangible things that people need that can’t be substituted for stuff. I realized that my kids wanted my time and my undivided attention more than the stuff. They wanted to know that I would be available to them when they needed me. I made efforts to create the space and time for them by reading stories at night, by banning videos in the car, by making everyone eat dinner at the table at the same time, and by being a presence at their schools. The time built trust, made them respect me when I said no, and made room for them to respectfully ask questions about my decisions and thoughts. I also think they appreciated the things they got later because I didn’t give in to the “But Ma, everybody has one!” mantra every time I heard it.