Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dear Sons, Kids Are Spending HOW MUCH MONEY? That's Not Even Their Name On It?!

Dear boys,

Look, I was your age once and stop rolling your eyes at me because I was. Let me tell you about a pair of "jelly" shoes that your mom wanted. These shoes were see through and plastic and really when I think about it, kinda ugly. But you couldn't tell me anything at the time because it seemed as if every girl wanted a pair and I wanted to fit in, to be like everyone in the crowd and to have my own. Now your grandpa, who I still swear was switched a few years ago by pod people (ask Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams, they'll know) always told me clothes and shoes were uniforms. He would schedule, based on the seasons, when to purchase our clothes according to our needs. Let me tell you, there was NO retail therapy going on at our house! Clothes were for specific purposes and play clothes were just worn out clothes that no longer served their purpose. Sooooo, my siblings and I received "school clothes", "church clothes", "special event clothes" as needed. No one was going to tell dad to please buy them the latest shoes because they wanted to be stylish. Heck, dad's response was always, "when you work you can buy yourself whatever you want, you'll have earned it. For now, I say you wear what you need."

Wow, I look back at those time and I remember feeling so dejected and distressed because some kids at school seemed to have more uniform choices than I did. But I look at the kids now and my mouth opens to the point I know flies are planning their vacations around me. So, these jellys right. They were ugly, I'm going to be upfront about it but I wanted them and I was determined to get a pair. I hounded my dad for weeks, put on the waterworks and just outright begged. OMG! (Goodness, how easily I revert to 21st Century text speak) Yes! My father breaks down and buys me a pair! And you know what? They were uncomfortable as heck, they weren't all that attractive and I think wore them once and never looked at them again. My father sat me down and explained that the $9.99 he spent was equivalent to about two hours of work for him. It blew my mind! All I could think about was how my dad was working for two hours and in all that time all he had to show for it was my ugly pair of jellys that I didn't even wear. I think I cried. I sure as hell never forgot and when I got my first job and went buck wild shopping and spending my hard earned $2 an hour wages on crap my dad reminded me about those jellys.

Now you know your mom and you know I've spent A LOT OF hard earned money on crap. Can we say "Retail Therapy"? (Call Alice, my shrink) Sometimes I can show what I've done with it and sometimes I shake my head at how I wasted serious cash on indulging my ego and inner child. I see young people wanting things not within their means and for all the wrong reasons and while I'm not as strict as your grandpa - pre-pod abduction of course - I do try to remind you that when you take those Summer jobs you make fiscally responsible choices, not only for your sakes but for your future needs.

Now ever since my financial advisor Candi Sparks entered our lives over 15 years ago, around the time your mom had to be on public assistance because times were hard, I've always tried to learn how to manage my resources better. Cash, moolah, duckets, paper, it's all currency and it's all simply a resource, a tool. Don't try to live to make it, don't let one tool overshadow all the amazing other things life has to offer and no I'm not talking about the next designer jacket. I've been pretty blessed. You all took it well when you were younger and I explained that mommy only had a set amount of dollars per week. I showed you the bills as they came in and I showed you how some could be paid and some would take time and effort. You were so mature and amazingly understanding when lights and heat went off and we lived by candlelight for a while. You would go to Payless Shoes or Conway Department Stores and never complained as we found sturdy long lasting items for you and me. It was as if the light bulb had gone off in your head. Yes! Mom would work 40 hours a week to acquire money and that money had to be stretched to pay the utilities, the food, the transportation (the Silver Bullet to us!) and our 'uniforms'.

I watch you all now and I see when you have that gleam in your eyes and splurge for yourselves. You've earned those instances many times over, as I watch you compare items when you shop online and I watch you weigh whether to put off a purchase until the semester is over. I am so proud that while you all have amazingly exquisite tastes you take care of your bills first. (I'll take some credit for that, after all I taught you quality before popularity and classic items never goes our of style and fads will surely always result in that retro picture you wish you hadn't taken) I marvel at how great you all are when you come asking for money and relay to me the depth of thought you put into the purchase you want help with. Even your designer choices make sense and you buy those items on your own, with the money you've earned.

I feel bad about the kids who don't plan, who don't understand the value of the dollars they are spending or the amount of energy expended to acquire that dollar. Designer stuff is nice but you can't live on those clothes if you're about to be evicted for not paying your rent or mortgage. Don't even get me starting on the hoarding of crap and clothes out in this country right now too! Where will they keep it all? Is that what their lives amounted to? Having tons of stuff and clothes? Will cemeteries start selling storage space for it all as well? Shoot, I'm in the wrong business then!

So, as you've all begun to embark on your lives as adult men (I am so in awe of all of you my darlings, how proud I am to be your mom) I want you to keep doing what you're doing and weigh in those lessons you learned from your elders, like Titi Candi and Titi Maddy. (Titi is Spanish for aunt) I've seen some "jellys" in your closets but I smile. We all need at least one, if only just to remind us of how silly we can be when we want something we don't really need.

Also feel free to pool your duckets together come Mothers Day, because Mom likes trips now, not shoes.
Love you boys!

Love Mom

Carmen M. Colon is a mother, an engineer, an education and childrens advocate, an author and a workshop facilitator on the topics of leadership, womens empowerment, career advancement and now on parenting. She is writing a series of "Dear Kids" letters to her three sons on a series of topics and issues.
Her website is
Her books can be found online:

Mother to three amazing self sufficient civic minded sons. Devin Christopher, 24, Fashion Designer, college student in NYC and youngest athletic director ever hired at a major sports complex in NYC. Antonio Fernandez, 20, choreographer, dancer, model, college student in NYC, has already performed with Cyndi Lauper at the Beacon Theatre and simply ready for his close-up. Taylor Aidan, almost 18 (at this release), HS Senior in NYC, amazing singer who is studying to be the next greatest sign language interpreter the world's ever known. (DISCLAIMER: Ok, mom wrote that.)

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