I walk a fine line (okay, it’s more like drunkenly stagger down a hallway) between meeting reasonable wants and needs in our family and gripping so tightly on my purse strings that my knuckles bleed. Anywho, when it comes to “keeping up with the Joneses,” I have totally different standards for myself than for my kids. I’m old enough to know better, they’re young students and need to learn lessons for themselves. Here’s how this struggle – status vs. function, the frills vs. the basics, etc. – recently played out in our house.
Sonya is on the competitive cheerleading team. It is no less athletic than competitive gymnastics was, and these kids work hard. I couldn’t be prouder of what she does.
The culture of cheerleading is foreign to me, and it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the values that some of the other families seem to care desperately about. While every other sport that I’ve been involved with for my kids values function over form, I’ve slowly realized that for some parents, cheerleading (and their child) is a status symbol.
Some of these families seem to be trying very hard to be the Joneses.
At any rate, the coach said the kids needed to get practice wear for next year, expensive clothing for working out in but if the coach says we need it, I’m in.
The base price for a tank top, shorts, and a sports bra was about $100. Which is insane, but okay, these kids do practice a lot so they’ll get a fair amount of use. But then there were options to add gems to all of the pieces for another hundred bucks. The moms on my kids’ team were adamant that this was important. For whatever reason, they were also adamant that all of the kids chose the same option (“cheerleading is about unity!”). Since the coach did not say that the gems were mandatory, I opted to order gems on the tank top but nothing else, for $120 total. The blowback from the other moms was…intense.
But no, I’m not crazy to not wanting to spend $80 to bedazzle a sports bra for a 10-year-old.
Because I wasn’t the one facing the consequences of my decision, I asked Sonya about it. (Side note: after I put my foot down and said I wouldn’t put gems on the shorts and sports bra, two other moms followed suit, so Sonya won’t stick out for having no gems on her underwear). She wondered why anybody would put gems on shorts, and pay for it??? And she didn’t care if her sports bra looked slightly less sparkly than her friends’.
I told her that it’s important to me that we think carefully about how we spend our money and that we use it wisely, and that since she was saving us $80, we would take $30 of that to pay for the knockoff AirPods she has been saving up for. We save money, she feels spoiled, and we don’t get swept up in the rush of spending money for the sake of looking like you are the kind of person who spends money.
If you don’t count the extreme discomfort I still feel at having to aggressively defend my completely rational (and personal!) financial decisions to a bunch of women I barely know, everybody wins!