For many a day, I’ve heard my mother tell me about the pain and malcontent that children bearing has brought on her. Not only are having kids costly, but they also demand your full energy, every minute of the day, with no breaks, and no release. Okay, so it's not all bad. In fact, there is a lot more good than bad. But to be frank, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least tell you my brother and I weren’t always cooperative. That being so, this one is for you moms: a list of things kids, both young and old, need. I hope it makes the job all the easier!
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Not only will these methods often be much cheaper, but they will also be more environmentally conscious. Now, comon’ – doesn’t this make up for a little bit of the suffering?
Babies and Toddlers
First off, when you have a baby, – baring any unusual circumstances – you should breastfeed if you didn’t already. This is a cheaper, healthier, and all-natural way to feed your child. Don’t worry, this isn’t a one-way ticket to the Oedipus complex. Instead, it’s a way to prevent digestive problems, disease, and (according to some) low IQ.
In addition to breastfeeding, use cloth diapers. At first glance of the idea, it definitely seems gross, but the money you’ll be saving (not to mention the waste you’ll prevent spreading from traditional diapers) is well worth it. My mom always used cloth diapers, and a little while after we were out of diapers, she used them as cleaning rags. Also, gross, but it’s a good way to recycle.
Next, make baby stuff! While we are young, take advantage of us not knowing fads or what’s ‘cool’ yet. That said, make us your own toys, nursery décor, and anything else you can create. Be sure to use organic fabrics without dyes or harsh chemicals. This is an extremely low-budget, yet very sentimental way to come up with a baby's necessities.
Like the last one, take advantage of the early age. Now's when you can make your own baby food or start testing out cooking on us while we are young if you need the practice. Not only can you explore health cooking, but chances are, we'll love it anyways. On a similar note, get us exercising young – maybe with some toddler yoga.
Into School and something else too…
Ahh, the time of Disney movies and social exposure: here, we’ll be heading into elementary and middle school. First things first, I suggest trying to objectively identify the personality of your child. This may be hard, but if you can pinpoint the character of your child, you can offer special support. For example, you can give boosts of confidence for the socially awkward, or lessons of morality and ethics for the socially outgoing. This is one of the most important things you can do – plus its cheap and eco-safe!
At the same time, be sure to offer us lots of educational support. Don’t let us fall behind in school, because that is one place where our pride will suffer most. Take extra time each day to talk about what we learned and if we think anything is hard or confusing. Try to give us someone to relate to, and don’t alienate us by making us feel stupid. Like the last tip, this is generally pretty cheap (albeit cost of tutors, educational games, etc).
Next, give us an epic book at this age. Maybe we’ll read it now, maybe we won’t – but put something into our possession that you think will change us for the better. Personally, I wish I would have got Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card in my younger days (this book is probably appropriate for 11/12+).
Finally, get us connected with nature. Take us camping and on vacations to new spots if possible. Alternatively, enroll us into Boy Scouts. If anything, set up a tent in the backyard one summer. It gives us a sense of freedom and also begins forging a positive relationship with the world around us, helping us become a bit more environmentally conscious.
Teens and Twenties
Now that you’ve offered plenty of support in the early school years, it’s time to give us some space. After heading straight on into puberty, our outlook is changing and individualism begins looking more and more attractive. Now, we want to be our own man or women, which, by no stretch of the imagination, we are. Regardless, offer us a little room just to accommodate the changing personality.
That’s not to say you still don’t have influence, however. Like at the younger age, continuing conversing with your child when you can. Get a good feel for what he/she likes and surprise them with small gifts once in a while for doing something good (like a good grade) or trying really hard on something. It’s an odd balance between support and positive reinforcement, but you’ll figure it out.
In this phase, give chores incentives. Have any desires to make your home greener? Well, put us to work fixing leaks, donating clothes, changing lights, and insulating the doors and windows. This is going to save you money in the long run because of energy costs, but it will also mean that the $20 you give us for each job will be spent wisely. Even better, it will go toward your child, and not some smelly handyman.
Last but not least, give us old stuff. I recommend you listen in on your child’s music, do some Google searching on the artist, then go to Goodwill and find what you can that fits the style. Just mix it in with the laundry and tell us they are “So and So's Band Name” clothes. Likewise, let us try our hand at an old guitar (yard sale quality works just fine – maybe with some new strings). Finally, rather than buying regular shoes, buy those made from recycled materials. Not only are these about the same price or cheaper, but they are better for the environment.
While no two kids are exactly alike, I hope this sheds a little light on how children feel about the whole growing up situation. Like many things in life, we are full of contradictions – support vs. freedom, family vs. friend time, and finding ourselves vs. staying true to who we’ve been. The important thing to keep in mind is that once we find our passion, support us in it. The one thing nearly all of us are looking for is the approval of our parents.
I urge any mothers out there to leave additional tips (I'm sure I missed something) below in the comment area! Happy parenting!