I must have been some kind of war survivor in a past life because I hate waste. Most people, in theory, don’t like to squander, but I’ll go to great lengths to avoid it.
You would know that from a gander in my fridge, where there are several condiment bottles standing upside down with an inch left inside, and a dozen Tupperware containers filled with leftovers.
This does not translate to penny-pinching or miserly ways, mind you. I’ll still overpay for a handbag or a hot pair of shoes, but I’ll wear them until they disintegrate or find a new home. I am a regular on the Vets used clothing/house items pick-up circuit, I recently hosted a successful clothing swap, and I am a chronic re-gifter.
I’m giving you some context so you understand my anger and frustration when my children waste. It took me a while to be ok with my babies throwing unwanted food on the floor. By nature, toddlers are wasteful because they aren’t aware of the world around them. But by the time kids hit 7 or 8, can’t I expect some sense of responsibility and prudence?
Last week, 12-year-old Jacob got new sneakers because his were too small and he had worn through the toes. He picked a snazzy pair of Nikes with neon green details and laces. All seemed well until the third day after purchase, when the new shoes were left clogging my hallway and the holey ones were back on his feet, with no discussion.
When pressed, he admitted he didn’t like the costly shoes he had chosen after trips to three stores. Who knows if someone at school made fun of the color or he just decided they were no longer cool, but those shoes are dead to him now.
My 8-year-old, Aden, is in a bad activity-quitting phase. For years, he was my easy-going one who signed up for anything, regardless of whether friends were involved or he was familiar with the place or teacher. In the last few months, he has begged me to sign him up only to quit guitar and basketball.
Last weekend, I had RSVP-ed yes to a football fundraising party that all his friends were attending, yet he decided that morning he would rather pout than punt. I told him he had made a commitment, I had paid for his ticket, and his brother was going so he was going. Despite my pleadings, the coach’s cajoling, and his friends’ inquiring, he dug his heels in and refused to play the whole time. I was annoyed but knew there was nothing I could say to make him play so I ignored his stunt and let it go.
What is a parent to do when a kid makes a decision and then changes his/her mind, and that choice costs money and effort? On the one hand, growing up is about learning to make good choices and we should give them room for mistakes.
But shouldn’t there be consequences to bad choices that cost money and time? I still have to buy Jacob shoes, so do I take the money out of his piggy bank? Do I punish Aden for not wanting to play football with his friends?
Both those penalties seem too harsh, and yet I’m still bitter about the waste. Please weigh in on this topic in the comments. Would love to hear what you think before I earn my title as meanest mommy ever, yet again.