How to Identify ‘We Can’t Afford It’

By Roxana Hackett

There is something seriously wrong with me because I feel exponentially guilty telling my kids we can’t afford something. In the words of my very wise pastor, “I am bowing at the altar of my kids’ happiness.”

“Mom, my friend has the coolest backpack! She got it online from this awesome website!”

“Oh yeah, how nice. You already have a backpack that you said you REALLY wanted last year.”

“But, Mom, this is my best friend and we want to match . . .”

“Well, I know, but we just can’t afford a new backpack this year.”

Do not get me wrong, for I am keenly aware about what God says about having stuff, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions.” Luke 12:15. BUT of course, that night I just had to check this awesome, one-of-a-kind, never-been-seen-before school bag, on this awesome website only to see a very cute, but generic bag with only one strap instead of two! Ugh! Why am I even considering it??!! Why do I let myself feel like a bad parent for saying NO to my kid? Why is it that I have the urge to give them what they want . . . Yes, I grew up poor, but I never lacked anything I needed. I had what my mom gave me and didn’t question it one bit. Our society is soaking in wants and entitlements to newer, better stuff, and my kids are riding the biggest wave of “never- enoughs.” I was so angry about it that I was about to wake her up and say, “Just so you know, we are not getting that backpack.”

Even if we could afford it I still wasn’t going to get it.

I want stuff too. My friend has the car I want, while I drive a very old one, my other friend just got new hardwood floors, another one just went on a cooking trip to Italy, another is building a new house, others shop at Nordstrom while I shop at Ross, and so on and so forth and what have you . . . It never ends no matter how old you are. Yep. So, I explained this to my daughter the next day when the backpack issue came up and said, “You know, if I buy it for you, the next year there will be an even ‘better’ one to want , then the year after the same thing will happen. The best thing is to be thankful and happy with what you have now at this very moment, and if you show me gratitude and you don’t complain and whine about having stuff, then I may surprise you when you least expect it.” My darling tween girl reached over to me, hugged me in the sweetest embrace, and said, “Mommy, you are so right. In fact, you are always right. That makes total sense, and thanks for teaching me this lesson.” Ha-ha! In my dreams!! No!! My jibber-jabber counsel was met with a pout, rolling of eyes, then a defeated shrug. There you go. My attempt at good parenting.

The thing is, she never brought up the new backpack again and, lo and behold, she survived the disappointment! Saying “No” to stuff despite my stupid guilt felt good and liberating. I must do it more often, for I don’t believe it makes me a bad parent. Right? Does anyone identify?

Roxana Hackett is a regular contributor to Christian Woman. Her new book ‘When Are Your Parents Coming To Get You’ is now available