The Quest for Nice Things

When Char and I were first married, we didn’t have an abundance of money. We did, however, have more than enough bills and a baby on the way. When we first started to set up house, we went to my father’s thrift store and he told us to pick out whatever we needed to get started. And so we did - couches, chairs, dressers, and a dining room table. A friend bought our bed as a wedding present and some others gave us a washer and dryer and we were set. Nothing was fancy looking and it was all obviously second hand, but it worked and that was all that mattered.

As time progressed, we accumulated newer things; decorated the house with more valuable knick knacks and pictures. The boys had new toys, books, and gadgets to entertain themselves with. About the only thing that never looked new was my long list of cars that were constantly handed to me on their last legs.

Still, we had nice things. Not expensive maybe, but nice nevertheless. We were proud of what we owned and never had regrets about having people over.

We’re still proud. The girls have made a peaceful haven for us and all of those who pass through our front door. We take pride in our belongings and in how our home appears to others. We want to be able to enjoy some of the finer things in life and not be afraid of something getting torn up and destroyed. However, we also love to live life and I refuse to fret over the possibility of any tear or nick happening to something. Things break. They wear out. They grow old and fall apart quite often while I am holding them trying to use them.

We have never childproofed our home due to our children or others. I have, however, ceased to invite certain people over because they could not control their children and had never taught them the proper way to behave in someone else’s home. I have written about that before, though, and will leave it to the archives.

So, why am I talking about this quest for nice things? It’s because I heard where someone blamed their children for the fact that they can’t own those nice things. It seemed to be the children’s fault that things always became broken or ripped. It was the children’s fault that the house had that funny smell that causes a person to gag and stop at the front door. It was the children’s fault that they were left to run roughshod over the furniture and not taught how to respect something and the difference between indoor play and outdoor play.

And there lies the rub that irritates me. Children who are not taught cannot be held accountable. If a person wishes nice things, then they need to teach their children how to respect possessions. Teach the children to pick up after themselves and put things away when they are finished using them. Teach them that some behavior is acceptable inside and other activity is for outside. They learn what they are taught and if the parent is teaching them, then it is not the child’s fault that they can’t have nice things. It’s the parent’s fault.

Furthermore, stop giving your children things before they are ready to be responsible for them. An elementary aged child does not need a laptop, cell phone or even an iPod. If they can’t find their shoes in the morning, then it is a logical assumption that they will lose that little fun piece of technology that cost you an arm and a leg. If they leave their dishes in their bedroom because that’s where they stopped using them, then they will leave their Kindle Fire in the backyard because something else came along and caught their attention. Just because it may seem cool to give your child things, doesn’t mean they are ready to handle them. Furthermore, if you do give it to them, then don’t be upset when they destroy it or lose it. You were the one who gave them a $200 gadget when they are incapable of even picking their clothes up off the floor.

And if your house smells, clean it. Clean the kids. Do laundry more often. Shampoo your carpets. My grandfather used to say that the cheapest things on earth were soap and water. More people need to use them. Children fail to learn responsibility because their parents do not know how to demonstrate it. Children are lazy because their parents are lazy and then the parents point the finger in the wrong direction.

I do not fear handing my Kindle, laptop, iPod or anything else to the 9 year-old. She knows better than to be rough with such devices. She also knows what it means when we say for her to clean her room and to pick up after herself. She does it at her friends’ homes and her friends do it in our home. Don’t be shocked. They do it because they were taught to do it and those families have no issue having nice things.

Children are not a hindrance to nice things. Parents are. Put the blame where it belongs, then put the effort into cleaning up the mess that was created. Nice things do not just happen; they are worked toward and earned.

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