Parent Devotion: For What It’s (Really) Worth
There’s probably a mathematical formula for determining how much more expensive our kids get as they get older. I’m no accountant, but it feels like I’ve added another zero to my kids’ annual expenses every year since they turned 16.
Because, dang, these college kids are making me broke.
I have two “children” in college right now. It’s pricey enough to pay for their education itself, what with all the loans, fees, books, fees, insurance, fees, food, and fees. (I really hate the concept of the “fee.” It’s the evil twin of “tax,” except it’s worse because at least you expect to pay taxes.) Add on the occasional campus parking ticket, trip to the emergency room, unexpected car repairs, and replacement laptop (“It wasn’t my fault…”), and you wonder how even King Solomon could afford to send his kids to college these days.
I’ve found it difficult to teach my kids financial lessons while they’re in college. When they make a bad decision, it’s hard to “punish” them when they’re already under a great amount of stress and less than broke. It’s one thing to teach your 10-year-old a lesson by making him earn money to help pay for the window he broke. It’s quite another to force your engineering student to go without a computer after she accidentally spilled Mountain Dew all over her laptop.
I’ve found that, by the time your kids reach the college years, it’s beyond the time to “teach them a lesson.” They’re adults. They may not always act like it, but they’re old enough to know right from wrong. They WILL make financial mistakes. (And, being completely honest here, WE still make our fair share of those.) With or without your help, they’re going to learn plenty of lessons “the hard way.” Tough love looks far different at 20 years old than 10.
There’s no one right answer. Every family, every parent, every child, and every situation is different. But I do know one thing for sure: There are some investments in your kids that are always worth it.
Like the $8 you could spend on taking your son or daughter out for a coffee, where you do nothing but give them your full attention and listening ears.
Or the 50 cents you might pay to send them a quick postcard telling them how proud you are of their accomplishments.
Or the 15 seconds it’ll take you to text them to let them know you’re thinking about them and praying for them.
It’s rare that you can spend so little and have your life—and your son’s or daughter’s life—so profoundly impacted.
Are the college years expensive? @#$%&! yes. But somehow, as tough as they can be, I’ve found them to be worth it. These years are short, unique, and critical to our children’s development into full-fledged adulthood. They needed our unconditional love when they were ankle-biters and adolescents, and they need it now more than ever—even if they might not admit it.
You might not feel so rich as you’re paying your kids’ seemingly endless college bills. (Or their $700 tow truck bill. True story.) But you are rich—abundantly wealthy, in fact—when it comes to the endless well of compassion you can give your adult-ish son or daughter. You don’t need to budget it, and it comes with no taxes or fees. You can be as generous as you want to be, and never run out of currency.
So use it. As often as you can.
Digging Deeper: Reflection and Challenge
Journal prompt: What are you most generous with in your life? Money? Your time? Your wisdom? Something else? Write about what you tend to give the most of, and why you think that is.
Challenge: Think about an area in your life where a friend or co-worker might say you tend to be a bit stingy. Make it your goal this week to be generous in that area of your life. Write your goal here. “This week, I’ll give my __________________ (my time, my money, my knowledge, my laughter, etc.) to ____________________.”
After spending a few moments reflecting on your former self, what kind of advice would you give your younger you? Would it have helped to hear those words? Why or why not?
Read and reflect on Proverbs 11:25.
Consider mailing a handwritten letter to your child, along with a $10 bill. Write a brief note about a time when you needed money, and God provided. Encourage them to use that $10 to bless someone else in their life.