My man-cub (a.k.a my son) sent a text message today to our family chat group. He wrote, “I miss my parents paying for things and being able to yell at them for not getting a bottle of wine at dinner!!!” He continued, “I’m never drinking wine again!!”
To the casual reader – to the outsider – these declarations would not make sense. But as I read the words on my phone, I burst into hysterical laughter. Wiping tears from my eyes, I couldn’t help but kvell with pride.
Allow me to explain…
My son loves money. My husband and I first became aware of this fact when he was in preschool. In celebration of Thanksgiving, the kids worked on a project for the purpose of conveying thanks for something or someone in their lives. At a holiday luncheon to which parents were invited, each child got up and presented his or her work of art along with its expressed thanks. Little Johnny was grateful for his puppy. Little Susie appreciated special time with Grandma. And so on and so on until it was our Little Angel’s turn. He stood up and with a huge grin declared:
Needless to say, we were mortified. He was barely four years old. What could he possibly have known of money? We were thirty-one-year-old parents, worked full-time, lived in a modest home, drove sensible cars, didn’t have trust funds, and hadn’t inherited a dime from anyone. What money did he think he had?
As the years went by, our son’s interests and tastes became more and more expensive. He developed an eye and a fancy for designer clothes, Italian leather loafers, and high-priced fast cars. He nagged us about joining country clubs and buying a second home (either on a beach, a lake, or at a ski resort). He wanted us to own a boat, fly only in first- or business-class, and go on exotic vacations. And, once he became of drinking age, he only wanted to dine in Michelin-rated restaurants and drink from one hundred dollar (plus!) bottles of wine.
Now, in the name of full disclosure, I too like to occasionally indulge in some of life’s finer things, but back in those days we were focused on paying bills. Period. My husband and I chose to put our children’s education (numerous formal and informal experiences) and family vacations ahead of many other ways of spending our money. We willingly put the kids’ interests and needs ahead of our own. And, we do not regret any of our decisions.
Our son has now been out of college for four years and has been saving his pennies. But life has started happening. He bought a ring and got engaged. He got married a year ago and recently went on a three-week honeymoon. He and his bride moved to northern California earlier this month so he could go back to school for an MBA. This week, they had to buy a car, make his first semester’s tuition payment, and pay for health insurance.
All at once, more cash is going out than is coming in. A lot more. The shock of it all hit him. Hard. Suddenly, making ends meet over the next two years will require thoughtful and careful planning. They’ll need to budget. Their situation will require financial compromises and…yes…delaying costly self-indulgences. Vacations and other splurges may have to wait.
At the end of the day, my man-cub knows that Papa Bear and Mama Bear won’t let him starve or become homeless. (We survived business school and they will too!) He’ll also learn that, with steak, Chianti can taste as good as Amarone.