Single Mom Slice Of Life:
Teaching My Teens The Greatness
Of Good Enough
There’s no question, I’ve busted my hump over the years to make sure that my kids were, at the very least, well-behaved. Not perfect, just helpful, respectful, kind, and giving members of society. There have been lectures, family tribunals, bouts of begging to my parents for hints, and yes, even Cosby Show reruns galore.
I have worked multiple jobs at once, taken crappy jobs for good reasons, and quit good jobs for better reasons. I have time and time again demonstrated the difference between a want versus a need, stressed the value of hard work over dumb luck, and did my best to instill the same sense of a good work ethic in them that my parents did in me.
Then, I had a disturbing thought: After spending so many years pushing the need to work for what you get… did I also teach my boys to enjoy it?
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Part of me really worried that I hadn’t. Had I become my father, a man who I still remember, asleep on his keyboard at home as he worked to support his family? Was I the proverbial spitting image of my mother who drives two hours each way to work, only to apologize at Christmastime that she didn’t get us kids enough at Christmastime? Sure, I work hard at a job that pays me well, but I don’t get vacation, sick, or holiday pay, basically, only getting paid for what I work. Therefore, my hard-earned paycheck (minus an obscene amount of taxes) basically goes to rent, with little room for anything in-between other than a few dinners out every once in a while.
So, I asked… “Do you wish we did that family-vacation sort of thing?”
With honesty that only teenagers can master, they said, yeah, they’re a little bummed their friends brag about family vacations and trips out of state. I won’t lie, a part of me died a little. Yet another Mother-of-the-Year award withered in the distance.
Then, in the same breath, they rebuilt my faith in my parenting abilities. With a shrug, Nick declared that, “then again, they also complain a lot about all of it. Boring car rides, fights with brothers or sisters, being stuck in hotel rooms.” Justin continued with, “We don’t go on long fancy trips, but we get lots of little ones, so it’s harder for Dominic to make me mad.”
Turns out, they get enough traveling by going to their dad’s house in Georgia each summer. When they get back, they get to spend time with their friends they missed during the break. During the year, there’s no real time for vacation, other than maybe Christmas visits to California, but as they put it, we spend more time in the car than we do with the family.
My own lessons about appreciation had turned around to bite me in the butt. Where I wanted to take them on fancy trips, or give them a sense of care-free travel, my kids were instead perfectly happy with the little things like midnight trips to the movies, or even a ‘just because’ night out for dinner that mean more to them than long car rides, or stuffy hotel rooms. I was even given a pat on the back for still keeping Friday Family Night alive, being told, “Did you know some of my friends don’t even have a family night?”
Whew – I was worried for naught. I may not be able to afford fancy trips or extended vacations, but I have given them traditions and memories and a sense of appreciation, and that’s good enough for me.
What about you? How do your kids feel about vacation time with the family? Do you have an opportunity to travel with your kids?
Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.