Dean liked to tell ( or sing) to our kids and now our grandchildren “you can’t always get what you want” Reflecting back on our child rearing years, we knew we did not want to give our kids everything they desired. We thought that if they have everything they want as a child, they might grow up with unrealistic expectations and turn into unhappy adults. We didn’t buy them many toys. I often told Dean I was glad we were poor when the kids were little so we couldn’t buy them all the popular toys. We went so far as to give away toys they had received as gifts from friends and relatives if we didn’t think they were educational or worthwhile. That only worked for a few years though.
When our children were nine and six years old we moved out to the country on a run down farm. They loved the freedom of running through the open fields. We lived in a backpacking tent four months while we gutted and rebuilt the farmhouse. We all worked hard from morning to night, but our children were genuinely happy. We had already decided we would start homeschooling our kids but decided to wait until the next year when the house project was done (or at least further along) and we also could research just how we would go about homeschooling. When September rolled around I cautioned our children to never tell anyone at school you live in a tent. I was concerned someone might want to come investigate our “home”.
Our kids helped in all aspects of gutting and restoring our house. They carried armloads of debris out to the dumpster and even helped with the plumbing.
But it wasn’t all work; we did get them each a kitten, which lived with us, and our dog in our small tent. Sometimes the kids would draw on the backs of the stacks of sheetrock that we were going to put up on the walls. They enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment by helping to measure mark and cut and pitch in with making our house a home. In their spare time we asked our kids to pick up the old rusty nails that littered our driveway. If they picked up a full coffee can of nails, we paid them with a trip to town to get an ice cream at the end of the day.
The next spring we planted a huge garden and our chief planters, weed pullers, and bug pickers were our two kids. I was amazed how hard they worked without complaints. Livestock was the next project on our list. When we finished rebuilding the chicken coop and the barn we bought two goats (my daughter wanted a horse but had to make due with a goat) and several chickens, our kids were responsible for their total care. Our daughter got up early and milked the goat and our son collected eggs, feed and watered the chickens before they went to school. Those years were full of learning difficult lessons by experience and receiving the rewards for their hard work.
Looking back, I see how those hard life lessons were making life better for them as adults. Not really making life easy, but teaching them useful skills. Beyond, plumbing and gardening, it taught them how to work hard, to not be afraid to try, never say can’t and to handle life’s challenges with grace. We are pleased that our children are teaching their kids that they don’t need everything they want and work is good. There is a quote I recently came across that I really like; “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” Robert A. Heinlein
Now all we have to say to the grandkids is “what does papa say?” and they will sing back to us “you can’t always get what you want”. Sometimes with a pout and sometimes with a smile.