Keeping Up with the Joneses

This article, entitled "Keeping Up with the Joneses," comes from Katie Kuenkel, MomsEveryday blogger from Western Wisconsin.

Have you ever heard the expression “keeping up with the Joneses?” In a nutshell, it basically means that you’re trying to match the lifestyle of your neighbors…or trying to possess similar things or do similar activities as your neighbors in order to seem as ‘good’ as them. But did you ever in a million years think you’d feel that way as it relates to your KIDS?? Neither did I. And now, I’m starting to feel the pressure.

As my kids get older, they are starting to notice the differences in what kids their age have and do. Just recently, my daughter (who is ten), asked me, “Can I get an iPhone?” Ummmm….NO was my quick response…only to get the reply, “But my friends do!!”

Ahhh…here it comes already. The infamous “But my friends can” expression. I’m sure I’ll hear THAT phrase a few more hundred times over the next few years. In not too long, it will be “how come my friends can stay out past midnight,” or “how come my friends can stay home alone by themselves all day,” or “how come my friends got a car for their sixteenth birthday?”

I could tell her a thousand times that I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 22 with a full-time job, or that I still don’t own an iPhone yet at age 36 or, “what on earth do you need a smartphone for when you’re only 10 years old??!” But all she can see is that her friends get one…so why can’t she…and that “it isn’t fair.”

Yep. Life isn’t fair.

(I think every parent has told that to their child at least once!)

But it goes beyond the cell phones and the iPads and the iPods. My kids are starting to take notice of all the different activities their friends can be in and do, too.

I like to think of Eau Claire as the “City of Opportunity.” There are soooo many different summer camps and activities that my kids can be a part of in this great community. And I am truly thankful for that. But sometimes, I think it’s both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

How many of us moms have asked each other over a cup of coffee, “So, what are your kids signed up for this summer??” or “What do you have planned for this summer? Any vacations?”

Don’t deny it, I think we’re all secretly comparing our busy or not-so-busy schedules to each other’s and hoping ours sounds more desirable.

And one of these days, I want to be able to happily exclaim, “NOTHING!” and feel completely content about that.

But no, of course, we are signed up for summer baseball, art camp, swimming lessons, nature camp, football camp, and the list goes on. Seriously? Will I even be able to sit down on my patio this summer with a cool glass of lemonade and my feet up??

When I was a kid, I think my siblings and I took a week of swimming lessons at the local beach and vacation bible school at our church. And that was it. The rest of the summer, we entertained ourselves with things like camp-outs in the backyard, swimming in the lake, and gathering the neighborhood kids for a game of kickball in the parking lot across the street. And we were happy. But there wasn’t the option to sign up for so many camps and activities. There weren’t any. So we never felt like we were missing out on anything. We never felt the pressure. And neither did our parents.

Do kids think they are “entitled” to be in summer camps because their friends are? Or do we parents feel pressure to sign them up because our friends’ kids are? Are we trying to “keep up with the Joneses?” Sometimes I wonder…

It’s too bad that our kids (and parents) feel this pressure to compete with their friends. I worry that we push and push our kids at such a young age because we don’t want them to miss out on something that their friends are doing. We don’t want them to “fall behind”. But in doing so, are we making our kids more competitive with each other? Are we turning them into little beasts who feel a sense of entitlement to doing and having all of these opportunities? And do they even have FUN doing them? Or are they doing them because they HAVE to…not because they WANT to?

My dad was a high school boys varsity basketball coach. He said as the years went on, he was noticing more and more kids quitting basketball by the time they got to high school. They were getting sick of it. Burnt out. Done. Is it because they were pushed so hard when they were so young and it got to a point that it wasn’t fun anymore? We parents may innocently think we’re doing our kids a favor by starting them so early in a sport. We want them to keep up with their peers. We don’t want them to fall behind. We want them to succeed. But success doesn’t have to mean being the BEST (or even one of the best) at something. To me, success is not only seeing my son’s face light up when he gets a base hit in baseball, but also seeing him hug and high-five a teammate who has just done the same. The whole team celebrates the accomplishment of one. And they are having FUN.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this, is that we parents need to stop feeling the pressure. Sometimes, we can do our kids (and ourselves!) a big favor by saying "no" instead of "yes." It's OK!! We need to stop feeling like we need to keep up with the Joneses. You need to do what YOU think is best for your child. It shouldn’t matter what the Joneses are doing. Someday, the Joneses may have wished that they had taken after YOU. ;)

About the Author...
Katie Kuenkel
Katie and her husband are proud parents of four busy kids (including twins!) and one mischievous puppy. In her free time, Katie enjoys waterskiing, basketball, boating, bowling, , photography, spending time with friends, and going to Daughtry concerts. ;)

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