I hesitated to tell this story on my Blog. I'm not sure why. I guess it was because I didn't want to be judged for the decision we made. I also don't ever want to be seen as a "rich doctor's wife." JB and I were raised in homes where money did not grow on trees. And we definitely plan to instill those same values in our children.
However, after talking to different "honest" friends (who always shoot me straight and don't just tell me what I want to hear), I decided to share it. I strive to make my Blog a place where I don't pretend to be something I'm not. I'm a Mom. I have to make "game-time" decisions. I make mistakes. I'm a real person. We are a real family.
This story should illustrate that in many ways.
So here's how this went down.
We loved throwing birthday parties for our kids overseas. They were very cheap due to the Base providing cheap venues and supplies, and it was an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate. Overseas, without family around, we were always looking for any excuse to have a party.
But upon returning to the United States, I was quickly refreshed as to how the real world worked. We had a birthday party for my three olders, and despite trying to do something very simple, the parties still ended up costing well over $300 per kid. These were simple bowling or Chik-fil-A parties. Nothing special at all.
(I can't help but wonder how much parents are dropping on some of these more extravagant parties I see floating around the Internet. But that's a whole 'nother post altogether.)
So JB and I discussed this and decided that we didn't want to do birthday parties for our kids anymore. At least not on a regular basis. We felt we spent more money and time and stress than the party was worth. We are constantly trying to teach our kids that we want to do things we value and to place an emphasis on quality time not quality things.
But more than that we felt like we could have more FUN with our kids if we just spent that time and money, together, as a family.
So we told our boys that instead of having a party for their 6th (Sidge) and 7th (Isaac) birthdays, we'd let them pick out one gift for $100 and go out together as a family. This would cost about $200 we figured -- nearly half of what we had dropped on their previous birthday.
So that's what we did. The boys each picked out a $100 Lego set, and we did something fun together as a family.
But now it's June. Abigail's birthday is a month away. We didn't plan on giving Abigail $100 to spend. She's not nearly as old as the boys, and she's not nearly as aware. So we thought we'd just get her a little present and go out together as a family and ultimately, spend even less.
But I didn't understand the power of big brothers. Somewhere along the line, the boys told Abigail she could also have $100 to spend. She didn't really know what that meant, but one day we went into Yoder's Market (a little store by our house.) They saw this big alligator up on the shelf, and the boys asked me how much it was.
I glanced at the price tag and said, "$38."
They turned to Abigail and told her that she could afford that for her birthday. Since it was $38, I didn't correct them. That would be a reasonable gift if she ended up picking it.
Two weeks went by. Abigail didn't bring up picking out a present so I found a few small "girl" Lego sets and bought them for her birthday. We went out for dinner for her birthday, and I gave her the lego sets, and I thought we were good to go.
But then, right after we had cake and ice cream with my parents, Abigail informed me that she wanted to go to Yoder's and get the alligator.
I talked to JB and explained to him the misunderstanding. I thought she had forgotten about the alligator. I had bought her the Legos. She hadn't forgotten about the alligator. JB and I decided to go ahead and get her the alligator too. We were still well below the original $100 price we had set.
So for two days we talked about the alligator. Abigail was so excited. I told her we could get it after ballet class on Tuesday. She was thrilled.
And here is where my mistake took a drastic turn for "worser."
I had misread the price tag.
It wasn't $38 as I had thought. It was $88.
I walked into Yoder's and asked the lady at the counter to take down the alligator for me. I grabbed a few other things in the store, and went to the front to pay for it.
She told me the grand total, and I immediately started shaking my head.
Abigail was standing next to me jumping up and down, so excited about getting her hands around the neck of this much-bigger-than-I-remembered-it-alligator.
"How much is the alligator?" I asked when the price popped up on her little cash register.
Eighty. Eight. Dollars.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I can't buy that."
I turned to see Abigail, her face aghast, tears already welling up in her eyes.
I bent down and explained to her that I was not saying no. But I had to talk to her father. I couldn't make this decision by myself. I told her that she needed to be strong while she waited. I told her I understood she was disappointed, but that she was not allowed to throw a fit. (She isn't a fit-thrower anyway, but I wanted her to understand that this decision would not be made based on her emotions.)
Abigail handled it very well. She was teary-eyed and sad, but she did not freak out. I slipped to the side and called JB.
We do Dave Ramsay's envelope system for budgeting in our house. I told him that we had enough in the envelope. He told me that it was not Abigail's fault I misread the price tag and that we should honor our commitment if we could. We have really tried to be "parents of our word" with our kids. We've tried to NOT say something unless we fully plan to fulfill what we are saying. We don't say, "Yes, I'll play that game with you," unless we are going to play that game. Obviously there will be times that we will still have to take back something we said. But we really want our kids to know our "yes" is "yes" and our "no" is "no."
So we bought the alligator.
I'm not happy about how big it is. I am definitely not happy about how much it cost. But I am happy that we were able to honor our word. Even if the thing barely fits on our king-sized bed!