March 1, 2006

The Ipod Incident 

Do you remember when you were a teenager and you wanted what everyone else had? Maybe your time was the 80’s, like me.  I remember I wanted a pair of Calvin Klein jeans (though I promised I’d wear something under them!) and every Izod shirt known to man.  Then this amazing invention came along and it made me drool…the CD.  They were so small and thin, I couldn’t understand how they could put so much music on such a little piece of…whatever it was.  I wanted them and I wanted them bad.  However, I didn’t have anything to play them on and at that time purchasing a CD player was a small investment, like a Toyota.  

I also wanted a Mustang convertible.  Candy apple red with black leather interior.  I didn’t really think I was asking for much.  After all, my parents were made of money, right? I swear there was a money tree going somewhere.  If not, they just had to go to the bank and get money from them.  Easy as pie.  

I did get the pair of Calvin Klein’s.  And a few Izod shirts.   And low and behold, I was lucky enough to even grab hold of a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans too. I did not get the CD player though.  Not until a few years later, in college, when I simply charged it and many, many other things (like CD’s) to my new credit card.  That’s a whole different column there!  So now I’m a 39-year-old mother of three. One a 14 year old who truly believes she must have everything and anything everyone else does.  Unfortunately for her, my feelings on that whole theory have changed since my teenage years.   

We live in a city that has two extremes.  You’re either poor or you’re rich.  Whether that’s really true or not doesn’t matter. You either live in a big house (making you rich) or a small house or even a trailer (making you poor).   Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what a ‘big’ house is…I’m sure there are some specific guidelines the youth of my town have to calculate big vs. small.  Whatever it is, I fall into the big category, which then means I’m rich. Wow! Congratulations to me!  I am so glad someone’s finally told me because I’ve been living the life of a middle class person for so long. Now I can live like the rich!  

Which, in my daughter’s world, means an Ipod.  

Here’s the story of the last week.  You tell me if you think I’m right.  I consulted many, many people on this issue. The first being Katrina who happened to be slammed with a PMS laden email screaming my frustration and anger at the circumstances I’m about to detail.  Gotta love that woman. She stuck to my side like glue and made me feel I was right.  Trying to be fair though, I thought I’d better ask a few more people and try for the ‘two out of three’ deal.  I didn’t have one person disagree.   

So here’s the story.   

The Christmas before last we got my daughter (the 14 year old) an MP3 player.  It cost about $100 and held approximately 30 songs.  We downloaded the songs she chose, though she had very few CD’s and at that point we weren’t downloading from the internet.  She used the thing twice and then left it at my best friends house for two weeks.  Finally, I got it and asked her to go get it.  She didn’t know where it was and realized it was lost.  Thankfully I was testing her and I gave it back.  She put it in the cabinet where I told her to so if she wanted it, she knew where it was and it wouldn’t be lost. 

She never used the thing again.  

Fast forward to two weeks ago. We’re having a conversation and she mentions she wants an Ipod.   So I start to think about it and mention not only does she have an MP3 player she never uses, she also never listens to music. She’s thrown CD’s away (YIKES!) and never has the radio on in her room.  Why would she want an Ipod?   Her answer? Because everyone else has one.   

Strike one.   

She explains that her MP3 player is old (just over a year) and only holds 25-30 songs (she only has two CD’s because she trashed the rest of the five she had).   I explained how much the MP3 player cost and she said, now make sure you’re sitting down for this one, “I wouldn’t have spent that much money on that thing.”  

Strike two.  

After expressing my appreciation for her thankfulness, I told her there would be no Ipod for her until she started using the MP3 player enough that she was constantly changing out the music.  She complained.  She cried. 

Strike 3.  

Complaining and crying have never been her better traits and usually do nothing but make me angrier.  I said, “Tough.”  

Fast-forward a week and a half later and her biological grandmother calls. (For those who don’t know, she is my stepdaughter but I have had custody of her since she was five years old. I’m mom in every way except the pregnancy and birth part. Her mother would not win any ‘mother of the year’ awards and abandoned her daughters at very young ages.)  It’s her birthday, along with her younger sister  (who turned 12) and she was thinking about getting them Ipods.  

I made it clear they both had MP3 player and did not use them. I also discussed my recent conversation with my daughter and specifically said to their grandmother “Do not get them Ipods.” 

What do you think they brought home with them that weekend?  

Putting it mildly, I was pissed.  Now, I am not one to avoid confrontation and I am not one to cave when I believe I’ve right. 

Those Ipods were going back.  

My husband and I discussed the issue and his theory was, “Well, they already have them and they’ll use them because their other ones don’t hold enough songs so we might as well let them keep them.” I disagreed. I explained my theory about their current MP3 players and their lack of use. I explained how she wanted one because everyone else had one, therefore making her current one “not cool”.  We argued and came to no suitable resolution for me.  I was planning to win this one. I felt too strongly about the situation.  

Not only did I feel my daughters did not need the Ipod. I was completely shocked their grandmother would call me and ask me about them, hear me tell her specifically “N-O” and then have the nerve to go out and buy them anyway.   

No, I am not their ‘biological mother’.  However, they live in my house and I am the one raising them.  I take them to their doctor’s appointments. Pick them up when they’re sick. Drive them to their after school activities, go on their overnight school trips.  I’m the ‘cheer mom’ for the team.  I’m the one they come to when they have a  bad dream or when they want to buy a bra.  Me. Me. Me.   I am mom.  I have emotional ownership over those girls and I couldn’t care less who gave birth to them.  Giving birth means you’re a mother.  It doesn’t mean you’re a mom.   I am a mom.  And because of that, I get to make decisions their biological mother (and her family) does NOT.  

That night I couldn’t sleep.   I kept thinking about what happened and what I needed to do.  My choices were obvious: 

If I let them keep the Ipods that is telling their grandmother and mother no matter what I say, they can do whatever they want. No, I can’t control what they give the girls in their own home but I can decide what comes here.  Also, if I let them keep them, it shows the girls that I really don’t stand by what I say and if I do tell them no to something, they can simply go to them and ask for it, knowing if they get it, I’ll let them keep it.  

I could take a stand and return the Ipods.   

I decided to call their mother and discuss the situation with her.  Turns out, she bought the 14 year old the Ipod (even though she can’t afford to pay their child support) and their grandmother bought the 12 year old hers.  Of course, they were all together in the store so grandma could have easily said, “Carolyn doesn’t want them to have those.” 

I get it though.   I get that they hate the fact the girls consider me their mom.  In their eyes, regardless of what she’s done (or not done) Jennifer is their mother and therefore she can do whatever she wants with them, for them or to them. They don’t see the truth here.  They don’t see Jennifer as she is…the good aunt who spoils the kids and lacks any ability to discipline them.  In their eyes it didn’t matter what I said because she’s the mom. I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize she lived in my house.  If she did, they certainly could determine what comes here and what doesn’t.  

I did talk with Jennifer and we decided we’d let the girls keep the Ipods and if they used them, great.  If not, I’d give them back to Jennifer.  But you know, the more I thought about it the more I realized that wasn’t going to work.  No lessons would be taught here and I would be giving in to something I felt strongly about. 

I did not want to teach my kids they can have what everyone else has just because they want it. My daughter told me everyone has the Very Bradley bags (the ugly, quilted things) and she didn’t like them. However, Jennifer spent another $100 on one and now she’s got one!  She doesn’t even like it.  But everyone’s got one and she wants to fit in.  

I explained to my kids that “things” don’t make you happy. If you continue to want what everyone else has, you’ll never be happy because someone out there will always have more.  I’m sure it didn’t sink in, but it will, eventually. Like when they’re 30.  

I also explained to my oldest daughter that since her mother can’t afford to pay us what she is legally required to, we end up taking the money from our pockets.   That money has to come from somewhere.  I told her it comes from her ‘future funds’…things for college, a wedding, etc.  So when she’s 18 and wants to go to school in NYC for $40,000 a year and we give her that check for $10,000 and she looks at us in shock, she’ll have to remember how great that purse and Ipod were that her mother gave her because the money spent on those should have been paid to us or in the least put into a savings plan for her college tuition.  I explained that it was irresponsible for her mother to spend $300 on her for her birthday when she’s put zero into a savings plan and she’s not paid the orthodontist bill for three months or paid us all she owes.  I also explained what college will cost her…down to the cost of tampons every month.  And I think some of it might have actually sunk in.  

Later I sat down with each of the girls and told them they couldn’t keep the Ipods.   I explained my reasons and told them I had to take a stand or my word would mean nothing to their mother and grandmother.  My youngest was fine with it.  She told me she brought the Ipod to school that day, but only to show her friends.  She didn’t even use it. (Validation to my theory right there!) My oldest understood and actually said I was right, her grandmother shouldn’t have done what she did.  She also mentioned taking her Ipod to school but just showing everyone, not using it.  

So today I’m going to ship them back to their mother with a note simply saying, “I realized we discussed this, however if I let the girls keep them, it goes against what I’ve already said.  It’s not right that your mother let these be purchased and given to the girls knowing I said not to and if I let them keep them, it sets a precedent for future behavior and I’m not willing to allow that.”  

I think that should make my point perfectly clear.  After all, I am their mother.


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