Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dream, Part Five


Part four is here.

My final wish for women and girls everywhere is that they have choices. That they be presented with options and given the freedom to exercise their will. Certainly this doesn't mean that young girls ought to be able to make difficult or momentous decisions beyond their developmental capabilities, but it does mean that we need to assess their abilities closely, listen to them when they talk to us about their desires and beliefs, and take those into consideration when we help them choose their path.

When we are given options, we are given trust and responsibility. Inherently, we are being told that we are valued as independent or semi-independent entities who can be relied upon to weigh variables and decide accordingly.

When Bubba and I began giving our daughters an allowance it was initially very difficult for me to let them spend it. Their weekly spending money actually only comes out to one third of their allowance, given that we put one third into a savings account and the other third into a charity account which they are free to donate at their own discretion. Lola uses her money every Thanksgiving to "buy" turkey dinners from the Union Gospel Mission for homeless people in our area and Eve generally sends her money to a local animal shelter. Their savings accounts are to be used for big-ticket items that are strictly "wants" versus "needs" and must be pre-approved by Bubba and me, but their spend money is fairly unfettered.

I don't know whether it is because Lola is the younger child and used to hand-me-downs, or if it is just her personality, but she tends to forget about her allowance within 40 seconds of getting it. Eve, on the other hand, mentally spends hers half a million times before the cash ever hits her hot little hand. I'm not sure "burning a hole in her pocket" is accurate because I don't think the money ever makes it that far.

Over the years I have had to learn to bite my tongue when Eve tells me about the new song she's going to download or the cheap notebook she wants to buy. When she used to get the Scholastic Book Order form from her classroom, she would tuck it under her arm, head up to her room, and sit in the beanbag circling items and counting on her fingers for an hour. More than once she has blown her stash on books that take her less than 15 minutes to read and come sobbing to me that she wasted her money.

But therein lies the rub, doesn't it? Along with choices come consequences and unless we have choices, we can't learn how to make more difficult ones. Without suffering the sometimes negative outcomes of our rash decisions we would continue to make poor choices over and over again. Learning can't happen without mistakes. Mistakes can't happen without action. If we aren't trusted to take action, we can't learn or grow.

My wish for women and girls everywhere is that they be given the chance to test themselves. I want them to be nurtured and cared for and have a safe place in which to make mistakes, but that won't mean anything unless they are given choices to make. Too often, as people in power, whether benevolent and loving or dictatorial and fearful, we trick ourselves into believing that we know best. All too often, I've discovered that I can be surprised when I stop and take the time to listen to others' perspectives. There are things which I couldn't possibly have known or circumstances I was unaware of or deeply held beliefs I wouldn't haven taken into account that may drastically change my point of view. From time to time we all make choices we wish we wouldn't have, but being given the freedom to choose is worth the possibility of screwing up. Just ask someone who doesn't have that freedom.

7 comments:

Guyana-Gyal said...

I see so many women here who are deprived of the ability to choose for themselves...deprived through lack of education.

I think a lot of the poverty in poor countries can be alleviated if more women had more choices.

Your daughters are lucky little girls, but I had to smile at Eve counting on her fingers, wailing at the waste.

Wanda said...

Choice = freedom. Let's free ALL women. I'm just sayin'.

Wanda said...

Choice = freedom. Let's free ALL women. I'm just sayin'.

Carrie Link said...

Therein lies the rub, indeed! Important to make "bad" choices when they are not life-threatening!

Deb Shucka said...

One of my biggest frustrations as a teacher was parents who weren't willing to allow the uncomfortable consequences of kids' choices in circumstances that were supported and mostly benign. I love the way you do allowance with your girls and the lessons you get in releasing control - which is at the core of all choice.

evf said...

Lovely, Kari. And I appreciate what your family has decided to do with allowances. Choices, yes!

Kathryn Grace said...

You are doing a wonderful thing, splitting the children's allowance into three buckets. How wonderful that they get to choose how to spend two of their buckets. From a grandmother's point of view, looking back, I can tell you that giving your children age-appropriate choices pays enormous dividends when they reach their teen and early adult years.

Yes, they still take risks that scare the puhdoodie out of Mom and Dad, but they are well skilled by then at calculating the risks and they tend to make much better choices over all. When their decision making is based on years of experience with consequences, they have a lot more knowledge to draw on and make better choices then their more coddled peers.

Plus, children who know they are trusted tend to want to continue to earn that trust.

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