My oldest son John will be thirteen this summer, and he’s already been telling me for months about the things he “needs.” His sister dropped his digital camera; he needs a new one. The guitar that he plays in church has nylon strings instead of steel ones; it’s too quiet, so he needs a new one. Some of his friends have purchased an iPod touch; he needs one too. Another friend has a used laptop his dad fixed up for him; John enjoys creating images on Photoshop, and a laptop would come in handy.
I miss the days when a one dollar Hot Wheels car was enough to make him smile. Of course, as he grows older, the “toys” he’ll want will cost more. I just didn’t expect him to want these items so soon.
I’m still trying to figure out what to do about it. I understand the peer pressure – when his friends have these items and talk about them, he wants to have them too. But I also know these are big ticket items, and though I can find a deal on a guitar or camera for his birthday, we won’t be giving him both. And the iPod and laptop are just going to have to wait.
He can work and save the money he earns to buy the items, but finding a steady income when you’re twelve can be difficult. Many of his friends receive allowances, something John also earns when we have extra money, but lately we’ve had to cut back on that as finances become tight.
So what’s a boy to do? Well, he can save up any birthday money he receives. He could do yard work for his grandma or help her wash her car. He can sell some of the toys he’s outgrown at the flea market, a yard sale, or on eBay.
What else can he do? He can learn to wait. He can understand the value of his time, his energy, and his money. He can find the satisfaction in delayed gratification – in working diligently and, over time, reaching his goal. While these are hard lessons when it seems he’s the only one learning them, they’ll last a lot longer than the latest innovation in technology.