Oh yeah, it certainly did for me growing up. I know that my father controlled me with money. And he was unable to show love or affection in any other way. My life changed dramatically when he cut me off suddenly after financially supporting me way too long (into my mid-20s).
After his death (at 92) this summer, I was surprised at the level of my feelings of betrayal because he left nothing to my son. I didn’t expect him to leave me anything, but my son, well, that was another story.
I never considered myself a person who confused money with love regarding my child. Never mind that I found a way to buy him whatever trinket he wanted for birthday, holidays, just because. I have flashbacks about standing in line at 5 am (he, of course, was home sleeping) trying to get the newest game system the day it came out. Of course, it was usually the credit card company paying for these toys, not me.
Now, I’m in recovery. So all that undisciplined spending stopped in 2009, when he was 18. My guilt is severe over being unable to finish paying for my son’s college education, even though my PRG team has convinced me that I must ensure that I have savings because I am on disability and nearing retirement age. It doesn’t help to know that I was able to pay for all the tuition and two years of living expenses. The guilt is about the loans that are building now. And the promise I want to keep to him.
I got back into recovery at exactly the same time he started college. It was war between us to get him to work and I was sick inside at not just paying for everything, but if I wanted to stay in recovery, I could no longer afford to do so. Of course, it turned out for the best. He is highly responsible now.
I am very affectionate with my son. There is no confusion by him about whether or not I love him. So I was shocked when my sponsor pointed out that I was confusing money and love with regard to my son. It really got me thinking. It has been a hard, long road gradually reducing what I pay for him. I am thankful that he was just at the stage where it was time to do so because as a youngster, I don’t think I could have borne the agony of denying him.
You may want to think about this, even if you feel you aren’t confused. Here are a few tips, especially if you are new in recovery. If you don’t have children or in-laws, this can apply to siblings, parents, birthdays, Christmas, spouses, etc., anytime you feel guilt about not spending when you want to engender good feelings:
- When your child is in physical or emotional pain instead of buying them a toy, why not try watching a movie together or reading a book?
- Your sister-in-law just had surgery and you have no more money in your spending plan for gifts this month. Why not make a card and write your thoughts for her quick recovery, and call every day to check in on her? If you live close by, make her some cookies or dinner for her family.
- When your teenager demands the newest gadget and you have always given in, first, know that you are not alone. I’ll wager that no parent in recovery has escaped this challenging issue.
- Tell him or her no for now if you cannot afford it.
- Let the wrath flow and let the demon rail on. Once he/she is calm, patiently explain (for the first or 20th time) why you are now living by a spending plan.
- Expect the tactic to turn from rage to guilt. Tears will most likely flow. Stand firm … no matter how upset you are. It will pass. I promise.
- Suggest that he/she get a job/save allowance/wait for birthday.
- If it is an item that broke due to no fault of his/her own, maybe you can suggest purchase of a less expensive version.
- Suggest that he/she save for half if you want to contribute.
It will be quite a shock to the system to suddenly turn from parent who always says yes to pain-in-the-butt parent who won’t. So, I strongly suggest that once you’ve made a commitment to recovery, start the ball rolling immediately, before the iPhone gets lost or the xBox 360 breaks. Explain what you are doing and why. Your child can take it. In fact, you may be doing him/her a great service.
In the end, it may be harder on you than you your child when you say no. I know that has been, and continues to be, true for me. Now, my son likes to pay for items. But apparently, my confusion about money and love runs deep.
It will kill no teenager (or parent) to say no, no matter how good they are at terrorizing you. But take it from me, preparing them for what’s coming (i.e., the “new you” who doesn’t automatically react to a request by pulling out a credit card) before they want something is definitely best. If you are lucky and your child is young when you get into recovery, you are doubly blessed because you can raise him or her knowing this valuable lesson.