To have and have not

By Mir
April 9, 2006
Category Growing

My eBay auctions are over, and the most memorable part that will remain in my mind was a woman mailing me to ask if my shipping cost on an item was a typo. I mailed back that it was not, and she responded telling me that she hoped I could sleep at night, despite the fact that I was “ruining eBay for everyone” with my “outrageous inflation.” I mailed her back a somewhat civil explanation of the weight of the item and calculated cost, then asked her to please not bother bidding on any of my items, because I felt her attitude was ruining eBay for everyone; but that she should have herself a pleasant evening.

As I weighed the box and printed out the shipping label, tonight, I discovered that–and I assure you, it’s sheer serendipity–the actual shipping cost to the winning bidder? Is exactly what I charged. I’ll be sleeping just fine tonight. I suspect that woman, however, will be kept awake with her righteous indignation and the neverending job of patrolling the world.

All that anger over a few dollars. How much do you want to bet Indignant McEBayQueen has plenty of money?

I have to tell you, when I had plenty of money, I didn’t appreciate it. I’m not proud of that. Sure, I was frugal then, as I am now, but I didn’t realize how blessed I was to not have to worry. I didn’t give enough of that money (or my time, for that matter) to people who had less. I gave to charity. I volunteered my time. On my terms. In a way that was comfortable for me and didn’t require any sacrifice on my part.

And then money became an issue, and EVERYTHING felt like sacrifice. My safe, comfortable lifestyle was gone and I panicked. Everything revolved around money. Making sure there was enough; enough to pay the mortgage, enough to meet the other bills, enough to not always have to say to the kids, “Not today” or “We can’t.”

I have been working my way towards putting money in its proper place, for the last few years. It’s been an interesting journey for me, and one I could probably talk about at great length (but as most of you have already fallen asleep, I’ll refrain); the bottom line is that I’m in a different place, mentally, even if not fiscally. It’s not that I don’t worry at all, it’s that I trust that if I do what I need to do, it’ll work out.

So far, it has. The bills are being paid. I’m giving more of my money and my time than ever before to others. I’ve figured out that I have plenty. It’s enough. Too many people cannot say the same.

Remembering that is a good way to quell any fleeting desires for an iPod, or a vacation, or even for pretty shoes that aren’t on clearance!

In the meantime, sometimes my beautiful children come to me and jabber on and on about how they SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE without this or that item and they must have it and when can they get it and–

–then I think that OBVIOUSLY I am doing something VERY WRONG, because my children are materialistic STUFFHOUNDS and whatever example I am setting is nothing more than me standing between them and the television for a moment while they are trying to figure out which toy they require to stave off imminent DEATH BY COOLNESS DEPRIVATION.

Occasionally, I think I’m getting through to them. And then it’s back to the status quo–I want, I need, why do I haaaave to, and I don’t want to eat that. Then I take a break from my charitable involvement to beat them senseless until they feel grateful, dammit.

So the latest battle is this: Many of the kids’ schoolmates have fancy birthday parties involving venues that cost an arm and a leg, and then they invite the entire class and end up with so much loot the parents have to rent a small truck just to haul it all home. I wrote a few weeks ago about a few against-the-grain parties that appeal to me as a mom trying to instill a moral compass in my kids. Of course, as I casually tried to chat up those ideas to my own children, I was met with a variety of reactions, and I don’t think a single one of them was “Oh boy! I wanna do THAT!”

Chickadee’s birthday is coming up, and every idea she’s had involves more kids and more money than I feel comfortable agreeing to. And then came a potential solution to our impasse–a benefactor (with a license to spoil) offered to foot the bill for the “fancy” party she’s been begging for, as her birthday present. This was fine with me, as it would get me off the hook for throwing a party, and be something “special” she wouldn’t get otherwise, and not result in MORE STUFF.


I approached her with a bargain: She could have her party, and her extended guest list, IF she didn’t get presents. I challenged her to pick a charity to sponsor. Chickadee was unconvinced.

We’ve gone back and forth on whether or not this is what she wants to do. And her latest idea was to ask her guests to donate to my 3-Day account, which I appreciate and all, but it felt… I dunno… wrong. I can’t explain it; it just seemed a little self-aggrandizing to do that, even though it’s for a good cause. [“Wow, I’m really excited about Chickadee’s birthday! She’s going to have cake, and ice cream, and a martial arts demonstration, and she’s raising money for BOOBS! Isn’t that GREAT?”]

Today my church was recruiting people for an upcoming CROP Walk and when I was asked to walk, I pointed out that I’ve already hit up everyone I know for money for the 3-Day. But it’s a 6-mile walk, which would be a good training jaunt for me… and probably not too far for an 8-year-old….

So. The upcoming birthday party will be an extravaganza, and if Chickadee’s friends would like to sponsor her for the CROP Walk in lieu of a present, that would be great. We’ll be doing the walk together, the day after the party. She’s already planning what snacks she wants us to take along (she’s all about the important things, my daughter).

I think she’s going to have a memorable birthday. I hope that when it’s over, she’ll have had a great day with her friends, and have made it through the walk, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she has enough. Because, damn, I’m getting tired of beating her.


  1. Ms Sisyphus

    I’m starting to think that avarice is a normal part of the make up of every child. It certainly is of mine.

    I hold off the “invite the class” insanity by limiting the number of invitees to Diva Girls age. The stuff though, I haven’t found a wayto combat the stuff. So I think I’m gong to try to co-opt yours. Hopefully my daughter will accept it with the grace yours seems to have.

    And I hope Chickadee has a very happy birthday.

  2. buffi

    SugarPlum was going to have her party at the local SPCA shelter. Guests were going to be asked to bring donations of pet food, pet toys, etc. The kids were going to get to play with some of the puppies, ones that had been shown to be more social & non-aggressive. She was so excited. I was just happy to not have to bring home a bunch of stuff that would get put in the back of the (already full) closet!

    Unfortunately, there was some big “thing” that happened at the shelter (not involving animals or anything) and the party had to be postponed. And we never got around to rescheduling it. Very disappointing, but she is looking forward to doing it next year.

    On the plus side, I still avoided the “stuff!”

  3. Kathryn, DYM

    I love your party alternatives. What a great topic. Nothing super-fab to add. I just liked the post.

  4. Cele

    very kewl ideas Mir. Good luck to Chickie on her walk and her cause.

  5. Gillian

    I have a lot of respect for you. I love your CAN’T.CATCH.MY.BREATH humor and that big mylar ballon saying ‘Mean Mom Behind Here’ to cover up how tender you are with your children. You try to walk the moral high ground, but you are also a big softie. I almost hear you shouting ‘I am the powerful OZ. Pay no attention to the lady behind the curtain.’ Thanks for making my day so many times. And tell Chickadee I am so proud of her for finding a Bingo prize for monkey.

  6. Marvo

    Oh no you didn’t, girlfriend! Indignant McEBayQueen got slapped in the face with wordz!

  7. chris

    I have sold stuff on ebay a few times and I always end up thinking less of human kind in general. Like why can’t they read the ad, why do they have to ask me such insane questions. You know, it’s used kid’s clothing not the Hope diamond.

    We have had parties and had the guests bring food for the local food bank. But, I am just a really really mean mommy lately and we don’t have big extravaganzas at all. I like to think we are our own party ;-)

  8. ben

    I was bidding once on the Hope Diamond on e-bay, but dropped out because they asked for too much shipping :)

    But boy, was I disappointed when I didn’t get Shatner’s kidney stone. I had a shrine all set up and everything.

  9. sumo

    You are one of my favorite moms who blog. Kids shouldn’t have everything they want given to them, regardless of the income situation. You’re doing a great job! Not that you need my respect, but there you go.

  10. Amy-GO

    Tired? Of beating children? Surely you jest.
    Great party idea…think you could talk my kids into something like that? I could send them to you…I’d pay for the shipping! ;)

  11. bec 36

    My son is three, and whenever he sees pictures of other toys on the package from the toy he has, or books from the same series on the back of a book, he announces that we should “buy that for the store” (he means “from” of course) “and that one and that one and that one. Okay?” It’s cute…now. The walk is a fantastic idea.

    bec :D

  12. Latte Man

    This year for the first time, we are having LatteGirl’s party away from the house. You see, she has attended a great number of parties this year, and according to my wife, we are now obligated to invite each and every one of them to LatteGirl’s Party.

    That is something like 16 girls. We are having the party at an indoor amusement park, not for the extravagence of it, but simply as a way to save my home from what would result from having 16 five or six year olds running around my house for a day.

    But to be honest, I never considered encroaching on her birthday in an effort to instill morals in her. I try to do that the other 364 days of the year. Not saying you are wrong for doing what you are doing, just saying, I couldn’t do it.

  13. Chookooloonks

    Latte Man, dude, lighten up.

    Mir’s teaching a good thing, Chickadee’s into it, everyone’s happy.

    And perhaps you don’t “encroach” on your daughter’s birthday — and if that works for you, more power to you. You comment made me reflect, however: in my house, while my child is still just that, a CHILD, I’ll encroach however much I damn well please. Especially if, in the process, she still has fun and learns a valuable life lesson.

  14. Anne

    I’ve been reading for a while now and love your blog but haven’t left a comment until now. My son is now 8. We have done something similar for the last three years. He has not been harmed by doing without 30 more toys. He has way too many anyway. I do allow adult friends and relatives to buy him something, but the party guests bring something for his charity of choice. The first year it was a horse refuge and the last 2 years the animal shelter. Everyone benfits. It is more than we could give as an individual, the shelter benefits and all his little friends feel good about it too. This year the local paper came and took pics when he was at the shelter and put it the paper.
    The first year I gave him the choice of just a couple for friends doing something and they could bring presents or a big party with donations. He happily picked the party and a charity. We have discussed that the party and time with your friends is the best part anyway. I know he truly feels that way. Now, all this said, trust me, the child does not really feel much effect of not getting those toys. He is still very indulged and gets to do and go about anywhere he could ever want! Luckily, he is a sweet, kind, generous child.

  15. mo

    One of my daughter’s favorite things to do is pick a charity for her birthday party. She tends to be a naturally ‘giving’ kid – cutting her hair off twice for wigs for kids – and this kind of birthday party appeals to her nature. Also, I don’t end up carting all the dross to my home and add to the clutter that is her bedroom.

  16. Heather

    That’s a great idea! I’ll keep that in mind for when I have kids…

  17. Susan

    We fight this battle daily, not only over birthdays but over every single holiday that MIGHT POSSIBLY entail gift giving (did you know that Spring Break was a gift-related holiday? Neither did my kids until my mother-in-law told them it was! Thank you, mother-in-law!).

    And I’m with Karen–my job is to “encroach” now so that in twenty years my sons will be giving freely on their own. Honestly, I’m good with that.

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