Our community has been growing so fast this spring as our first corporate customers have been rolling out Chairman Mom as a benefit or trying us out as a pilot, that it’s been a while since I have asked a question.
Today I want to know your thoughts and advice on the fine line between giving your kids a better life than you had and spoiling them.
This is on my mind after our epic trip to London last week where the kids did everything from Sherwood Forest to a way-too-expensive Mad Hatter Tea Party in Soho to Legoland in Windsor to fifth row center seats at Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre to even buying up Disney Lego min-figs whenever we saw them in Evie’s mad pursuit to get a Steam Boat Mickey. (For some strange reason?)
It was the kids’ first international trip, and it was an undertaking. Just getting the passports was time-consuming and expensive! But I also feel like they grew up so much on this trip. Just the stamina it takes to fight through jet lag and do that kind of journey is impressive.
We told them they’d have to try new foods and not complain about it, and they were the best eaters they have EVER BEEN on this trip. Usually it’s all pizza and burgers, and there was some of that. But they also ate fish and chips and tea sandwiches and Yorkshire pudding with a traditional English Roast and Chinese food and even a tiny, tiny bit of Indian food.
They were so excited to soak up a different culture and learn new words for things and new customs. Evie felt so transformed that she worried on the plane ride home that her friends might not understand her accent now. Her “London voice” as she calls it. She started practicing asking for “a glass of waah-tah” in case people in London couldn’t understand “American.” She and Eli quizzed each other on what are chips and what are crisps and the loo and lifts. They insisted on using everything correctly, even correcting Paul when he ordered chips (instead of crisps) on the train.
Eli’s face in the cab around London was amazing in and of itself. While Evie snoozed off the flight leaning on his shoulder, it was like his eyes were carnivorous sponges. You could see him realize how much bigger the world is than San Francisco and how much he wanted to be in it. (I knew then, he’s not staying here. Eli’s heart is in a big city.)
Evie was so happy to discover the real place behind her favorite Disney movie Robin Hood that she didn’t even mind that he wasn’t a fox.
It was the kind of thing I never got to do as a child. I didn’t leave the country for the first time until almost my 30s.
I got pregnant with Eli after spending a few years making up for that. I traveled for 40 weeks to more than a dozen countries for my second book, and Eli went to five continents in the womb promoting it with me. I had so many ideas back then of how much we’d travel internationally together. And then for the next seven years we didn’t. Kids are hard. Life is hard. Divorces are expensive. Startups rip up your life.
Now, finally, I’m trying to make good on that lofty ideal. My goal is to take the kids to a different country every year. We are starting modestly—London was an easy cultural transition and a direct flight, and Paul has family there. We may just do Canada next year. Maybe Paris the year after. It’ll probably be a lot of Western Europe to begin with. But Eli is dying to go to China and Evie is dying to go to Japan, so I expect we’ll venture into Asia once they’ve gotten the discipline down a bit more. (And have expanded that palette even more…) It’s just a week a year, but by the time they graduate from high school they’ll have gone to almost a dozen countries. I can’t even imagine that.
So often this is a progression in families. My dad’s parents didn’t graduate high school, and he got his doctorate and is a respected professor while his only brother became a rocket scientist. The worlds the Lacy brothers moved in were surely unrecognizable to their parents. And yet, my parents never had the money to travel to Europe. They raised five kids on teacher salaries. I was able to do so much more than they did, in part because of what they sacrificed for me. And now Eli and Evie have already had so much more than I did. In a sense, it feels like honoring my parents sacrifices to pay that forward to them. My mom was so happy seeing the photos of the trip, remarking on how fortunate they are to do already at such a young age what she never could.
To me, it’s such a great gift to give them. To quote Eli’s favorite musical, “I can show you the world…”
But at what point does this veer into spoiling? I’m reminded of how strong and resilient I was made by growing up with so little, and how much I appreciated my first trip to London because I was 30 and I’d had to work hard to get there on my own. I see this all the time in Silicon Valley—an almost mania to give kids what you didn’t that turns into creating entitled, spoiled, demanding jerks. Discuss.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- Where is the line between giving your kids the things you never had and spoiling them?
- Has anyone used SkillCrush to level up?