My youngest son recently told me he wishes we were the same parents we were for my oldest.
He said it like this, though - "I have Under Armour clothes and Fruit of the Loom parents, he (older brother) had Fruit of the Loom clothes and Under Armour parents."
At first, when he said this, it felt like a kick in the privates.
Ouch dude, we work hard to give you a cushy life and that's the feedback we get?
But then I let it swirl around in my brain a little and I couldn't help but give this some thought.
Thought A: total props on the analogy. For a 13 year old, this sucker is profound.
Thought B: he's not wrong.
You see there are "sweet spots" when it comes to having children. These sweet spots have entirely to do with where you are at in your life and zero to do with the actual child.
So how do you know what age the sweet spots are? Well, it may not be the same for everyone, but I can tell you how to find them. I can tell you what stage of life will make you an "Under Armour parent" v. a Fruit of the Loom one...
You see an "Under Armour parent," to a child, is - in the most simplistic form - a parent who does shit with their kid. Play games, take them fishing/hiking/boating/skating/biking, engage in not only their life but their conversations as well.
An Under Armour parent is the one who is there for it. For the rainy Saturday, for the Christmas break sledding, for the quick trip to the park where, and here's a big 'en, the said parent does things like pushes kid on the swing, chases them down the slide or challenges them on the monkey bars. Under Armour parents don't look at their phone while they're at the park - they're too busy playing.
Under Armour parents are found in one of two lifestyle places; 1) barely scraping by financially or 2) had their kids later in life.
Adults who are barely scraping by generally spend their free time where?
With their kids.
Because they can scarcely afford to do anything else, so the kid becomes the source of entertainment and they will find every free resource available and utilize it to "do stuff" in their off hours. To the parent this serves two purposes; the first is some quality bonding time and the second is to spend as little money as possible.
To the kid, these types of parents serve the best and most basic purpose ever:
Roof over my head - is it new/perfect? No? Don't care.
Food - mac & cheese every night is food. In fact it's pretty much the best possible dinner you can serve. My parents are an A+ at this feeding-the-kid thing.
Love - my parents must love me, we do all this cool stuff together like build sandcastles, go on bug hunts and on really hot days they even sit in this little tiny pool with me and we turn it into a car wash for my Matchbox cars.
Kids care zero percent that your legs don't actually fit in that pool so much as the fact that you sat in the water with them. Parents who are barely scraping by don't give too many cares that their legs don't actually fit in that pool, they're just glad to be in any amount of water on any 900 degree day.
To those of you who are barely scraping by and trying to be a good parent - pat yourself on the back. You're likely kicking ass at this parenting gig.
On the flip side people who have their kids later in life can achieve Under Armour status for many of the same reasons with, quite possibly, completely opposite circumstances. See those people who took the time to travel, see the sights, climb the corporate ladder, reach job goals, personal goals, bucket list goals - they are ready to do the next step. And if the next step is get down on the floor and play Barbies for two hours - they're down with that (literally.) After all, they've waited for this moment - they're going to relish in it. They're not missing the field trips to the pumpkin patch or the Field Day 40-meter dash - even if it is at 1:15 in the afternoon! That company will survive the afternoon without them.
And just like that, because they had their kids after accomplishing all those other personal goals, they've opened it up to have the time to give and wella presto- they are also Under Armour status parents.
That leaves a bunch of grey area in between that might put you (like us, apparently,) at more of the Fruit of the Loom types.
Why? What causes the demotion?
Money. Time (or lack thereof.) Work. Having kids when you are still working your hiney off to make it to your #jobgoals means there may be times that you will put your job in front of that field trip.
Working your hiney off means sometimes when you come home you just want to unwind in front of social media. You don't want to dress Barbie (and Ken, ugh!) for the ball. So you.... (taking a stab in the dark here) tell the kid to play a game on the iPad for a bit. And a bit turns into an evening and next thing you know it's time for baths and bed and you didn't actually speak 12 words to your kid but you are 100% caught up on all the Insta stories at least. Whew!
Money - believe it or not friends, your kids don't care what you make. I guarantee it. But, when you get to a point where you can afford some things, wouldn't it be a great idea to buy the kids an iPad so they had one to watch videos on?
And for a short-lived moment - that new iPad is great. It's practically your saving grace. They're excited. They're occupied. Now you have time to check those Insta stories AND your Twitter feed. Win/win! Until it's not. Because the kids are fighting over that iPad and they watch if for 20 minutes and then throw it (why would they set it, they don't know how much those suckers cost?) down and utter every parent's favorite words, "I'm bored."
What? How can you be bored? I just bought a new iPad. We loaded four games onto it. When I was your age I had coloring books, crayons and a tree to climb. That's it! I would have killed to have an iPad with all those games right there...
Or.... would you have? Would you have traded in having your dad play catch with you for a little "me time" on the Xbox?
Would you have traded in biking around the neighborhood with your friend raiding Freezies out of whoever's freezer was stocked for virtual time with them playing a game?
I think probably, um, no.
And this type of thinking demotes you to a Fruit of the Loom parent.
Which sucks, I know, because apparently - I am one.
And what's worse is I wasn't always one.
Because now I have to buy less and spend more. And if that doesn't make any sense to you then you probably didn't read any of the sentences above...
Spend more TIME. Your time is what they crave. Your money they could give two craps about. Is it fun to go to the Waterpark? Sure.
Does the Waterpark cost money? Yep.
Do they care if they go to the Waterpark or play with a $1 packet of water balloons with you in the yard? Nope.
The factor here - is you. They want to be where you are and do what you're doing. And if you're wearing Fruit of the Loom - they're more than happy to be wearing it also. After all, if it's good enough for you - why do they deserve better?
Fruit of the Loom parents: make sure as your working your hiney off to make their lives better that you are, in fact, making them better. Not easier. Not cushier. But better.
And remember - better doesn't always (or ever) cost more.
Fruit of the Loom Mom