When our children were little, they would often ask for things, and we
would often say no. We would tell them that there was a long-lost beatitude
that said, "Blessed are the parents who are broke, for they have reason to
tell their kids no."
We weren't really broke, but with one parent at home, we did live on a
tight budget. Our missing beatitude somehow made sense to the children, and
we often had conversations like the following:
"Can I have a pony?"
"Can I have a Playstation?"
"Can I have Barbie's Malibu dream house that comes with a personal
access code garage door opener, kitchen trash compactor, refrigerator with
ice-maker, large-screen television and surround sound stereo system and
five differently outfitted Ken dolls housed in the master bedroom closet?"
"No. If anyone gets a house that nice, it should be you father and
me, not you and Barbie."
"Can I have a television with cable hookup and a DVD player in my
"Can I have a new car when I turn sixteen?"
"Can I breathe?"
Our system worked fine for many years until one day the oldest
child challenged the missing beatitude dictum.
The boy boldly proclaimed, "I do not believe there is a missing beatitude
that says, 'Blessed are the parents who are broke for they have reason to
tell their kids no.'"
We had been found out and, of course, this mess was our entire
fault. We never should have taught the boy to read. Or think.
Naturally, we confessed that there was no missing beatitude. We also
confessed there was no great surplus of cash.
Furthermore, we confessed that we really were thankful the answer to
their wants was often an easy no because as we looked around there was a
lot of confusion between wants and needs. There was all this whining and
whimpering about needing this and needing that, and having to have more,
and have newer, and having to go here and go there and sign up for this and
that. And that was just the noise coming from the adults.
It is difficult to tell your kids no, especially when they know you have
the resources to say yes.
Today, we are among the richest people in the richest nation in the history
of time. There are the "haves," the "have nots" and the "haves a lot." On a
global scale, nearly all of us in this country would fall under the heading
of "haves" or "haves a lot."
The dark side of this wonderful abundance is that when left unchecked it
creates a monstrous appetite for material things. And the monster demands
to be fed. Frequently. Routinely. Loudly.
Here's a good question: When was the last time you told one of your kids no?
Here's an even better question: When was the last time you told yourself
no? (You'll notice I'm not answering.)
We Baby Boomer and Gen X parents don't like saying no. We would rather live
on credit, run harder and faster, and stay at the office longer telling
ourselves that we are "doing it for the kids." And maybe we are doing it
for the kids.
The great irony is, our kids don't need more things. What they really need
is need more us.