Even though my husband lives three thousand miles away, he still helps me a great deal with raising our children. I ask for his opinions regarding how I should handle questionable situations. I even hand over the phone when the kids have a concern that I think he needs to weigh in on.
We often talk about how good our children have it. They are spoiled by their grandparents, by their aunts and uncles, by their older cousins– and rightfully so. Weren’t we all?
Like so many parents, R finds himself caught in the dilemma of giving our kids what he never had without spoiling them and I understand his predicament completely. Being a military family with one parent always gone and the other left to his or her own devices can give rise to a lot of emotions, guilt being a major one. On more than one occasion, I have found myself giving in to a lavish request, especially around Father’s Day, because I feel awful about their father’s absence. R has been known to take the children to the toy store so they can pick out whatever they want (within reason, reasoning equaling about ten bucks a kid) and later to the ice cream shop whenever he’s home. Going to the movies is expensive (I nearly fainted when the four of us went to see a matinee and it cost almost thirty dollars!) so when Daddy’s home, sometimes they see two or three.
And usually we give in to the negative emotion without any thought other than wondering if our bank account can handle it but more often than not, we remind ourselves that the limit will be drawn after that one time during that leave.
That’s where I definitely draw the line for myself. (Notice I said “for myself”, not “for R and I”. His situation is way different and far worse than mine!) Our kids don’t need more stuff from me (but grandparents, godparents, aunts, and uncles do not apply to this line; it’s in their job descriptions). They crave time. They want experiences.
I don’t remember a lot of extravagance back when I was a kid. The best things in life weren’t going to Game Stop and getting a new sixty dollar video game. It was seeing who was going to show up at the park across the street to play tag. It was seeing who could swing the highest on the rusty swings. It was staying outdoors until the stars came out to watch us play under street lights. It was that moment when one mom or dad would yell it was time to go home and we would all groan because we knew our moms and dads would come out soon to yell the same thing. It was the old pine tree growing in the school yard that I was convinced was as old as time itself and yet still invited me to climb higher and higher every day. It was driving to the beach, chatting with older Filipinos who cursed the marine mammals who “stole” all of the fish from them. It was going to this park that has seen many renovations since I was a little girl.
I have been very fortunate to live near water all of my life, especially the Pacific as a little girl. In college I stayed close to my ocean having been only a short bus ride away. Almost four decades later of flirting with lakes filled with tiny nipping fish and rivers that served as breeding grounds for multi-legged and non-legged creatures, it pains me to know that my Pacific is hours away instead of minutes. Luckily I have a strong memory.