The teen is jones-ing after a new phone. It seems that the perfectly fine one she has is no longer the best thing ever, since her buddy got a “free” upgrade. See me eye-roll. Hear me say, “it ain’t free sister.” Which prompts me to turn this moment into a lesson. A “how to not keep up with the Jones'” conversation. See my daughter’s eyes glaze over. Hear her mutter, “Oh great.” Lucky her. We were in the car and she be my captive audience. Hear my evil mother laugh.
Let’s define this phrase, shall we? No. Do NOT use the urban dictionary. You went there, didn’t you? But, good to know, don’t ‘cha think?! You’re welcome. Now, these Jones people. As a kid, I would always wonder “who and where are the Jones’?.” Searching the neighbourhood for these infamous people. Never to find them.
As it turns out, the phrase comes from a cartoon strip of the same name that ran from 1913 to 1940. In the strip, creator “Pop” Momand poked fun at our need to do things in order to impress other people. Ok, that was a long time ago, but obviously, the phrase is alive and well as it is still used today and more importantly, we live this phrase every day. Actually, our KIDS live it every day and we thunder behind them as we frantically try to prepare them for what can only be called an uncertain future.
We know the Jones’ of today. The adult ones have expensive fancy cars, yachts, vacations to far off lands, and have a house with more square footage than it deserves. And then there are the mini Jones’, who have mini versions of what their parents have. Regardless of who they are and what they have, the Jones’ are the people who tempt you to buy things you can’t afford and in the end won’t make you happy. They assure you that your child will be a failure, if they aren’t excelling at their chosen sport and if they aren’t on a direct course for some top-tier college. How can we be great parents, if we let our kids fall behind their peers? As Margaret Mead said:
“Parents have lost the security of their expectations.”
The Comparison Game
Comparing and wanting what other kids have is a natural behaviour in a child’s development. Remember the toddler “grab and mine” game? The teen and I have had many conversations about comparing on all levels. Comparing what we have, comparing our bodies to others, comparing what we like or dislike. How you will never be happy, if you constantly want what others have. Teach your kids to have a reason to buy things. Healthy reasons. Is the phone broken beyond repair? Nope. Conversation over.
You Want it? Earn it. But.
The teen receives a dollar a day for her (small) chores, and because we live on a farm, there is plenty of opportunity to earn more. Here was the reality check. I explained that the new phone would cost around the same amount of her monthly allowance for TWO YEARS. That means no trips to the mall, or actually, “yes, you can go, but you won’t have any money and you will have to wait for birthday or Christmas to MAYBE receive money for said trips to the mall. It was a hard nugget to swallow, but even she realized that two years is a long time, and the conversation quickly turned to her understanding what she would have to give up for the shiny new object.
Encouraging a Minimalist Lifestyle
This, my friends is a tough one for the teen aka teen hoarder to embrace, even though my husband and I try to example this as much as possible. We live in a consumerist culture that only cares about encouraging the opening of wallets, and it’s a battle waged every day and it’s hard to win. I hope the husband is right, when he tells me to repeat, repeat, repeat. “No, you can’t have the same shorts in 5 different colors.” “No. More. Makeup.” How many shades of brown eye shadow do you really need?
Cash is King
I’m realizing that for our teen ( ok, who are we kidding here! For the majority of people), having a debit card is a bad idea. When she makes a purchase, she can’t see her bank account reacting to said purchase. Because she was born into the digital age, she hasn’t learned about the empty wallet. Sure, she has limits on her spending that is imposed on her card, but there is nothing like seeing cold hard cash slip out of one hand and then looking at the bags in your other hand, only to ask the question of “bag worthiness”.
I get it. It’s a wrestle. A wrestle with the fear that if we don’t try to control the uncontrollable, that our kids will be left behind. That if we don’t commit some super human feat that will ensure our kids happiness and most importantly a comfortable future, we have not done our job. But as my dad pounded into me, “You will NOT follow the crowd! You will NOT be cattle.” Ok, dear dad (my eyes for once not glazing over). I get it. But the neighbours just got a new pool.