I keep finding myself saying things to my two children that my parents said to me and my siblings as we were growing up.
Some annoy my kids as much as they annoyed me, but I say them all the same (my standard response to a wail of “But I’m trying” is “You certainly are”, and “if you ask, you don’t get; if you don’t ask, you don’t want” falls out of my mouth completely unbidden). Others provide more of an insight into my parents’ personalities - “do unto the Devil before the Devil does unto you” (Dad) and “Satan get behind me” (Mum) – I’m not sure what it means that I say both.
There are a few genuinely helpful pearls of wisdom in there, too: “Don’t put your coat on now, or you won’t feel the benefit later” and “patience is a virtue” are both frequent visitors to my kitchen.
Lately, the ones about money have been coming out. My children are 12 and 10, and I am trying to teach them the importance of saving. Every week, they each get £1 pocket money, and can earn an additional £3 if they polish their shoes, empty the dishwasher, tidy their rooms, and top up the bird feeders. On top of that, there are often opportunities to earn ad hoc amounts for digging a bit of the garden, cleaning the car, polishing my shoes (I know, but…)
This money funds their own spending and, while it isn’t a fortune, they are both reasonably OK at thinking before spending their money on sweets and chocolate if they are saving for a particular Nerf gun or ANYTHING from Claire’s – “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” has played its part beautifully.
Lately, my son has been getting impatient to be able to buy a couple of things, and his money is not growing fast enough for his liking, and he has asked his sister if she would lend him some money. Apparently, she would be allowed to play with the Nerf gun when he wasn’t shooting her. The quote you see in the title surfaced almost immediately, having not been thought about for years. It’s a really odd one with archaic language so I looked it up when I started to write this blog. It’s actually a mis-quote from Hamlet and, while I am sure neither of my parents were Shakespeare fans, it’s great advice for us all. My conversations with my son have focussed around finding ways of living within his means: not starting down a route of funding immediate desires and ending up with debt that curtails what we are able to do longer term. This month, he has put in a monumental amount of overtime (the car is gleaming, the spare bricks in the garden are organised and tidy, and my riding boots are – nearly - shiny). This has meant he has ordered his Nerf Elite Warden, AND had a bit left over which he has put aside while he decides what to save for next.
If I am honest, my parents did lend money to me as I got older: they saved money each month their whole lives and were able to help their children at really important times. They also taught us to do the same, and I will be able to help my children when they are older, but I still wouldn’t buy anything other than a house or a car with a loan.
Finally, Dad was right: my younger brother WAS bigger than me one day. Fortunately for both my sister and me, it was at just the same time as Mum’s “Turn the other cheek” landed with him.
Annette Petchey, CEO Metfriendly