image of lots of colorful gifts

Everything I Never Had

With the holidays upon us, I’m not writing this hoping that anybody has a last-minute change of heart. We already know that when we’re committed to something, whether it be a good or bad thing, we are going to follow through. I do wish we had this type of follow through with more things of value, though.


My mother told me on more than one occasion that she refused me something not because she didn’t have it to give but because she could. She said such refusals would help me learn the difference between a want and a need.

I don’t have to explain all the ways that upset me. Why couldn’t she buy the type of soap I liked sometime? Why’d it always have to be Irish Spring or Dial, when my grandmother used Camay or Ivory? Why couldn’t she pick me up a bottle of Jergen’s which worked better than that cocoa butter crap she bought that never ran out and took forever to work into the skin?

My perceived need for these things and her inability to see them as a need, unless it was Christmastime and she was feeling generous, led me to my first of many side hustles.

I began side hustling before I reached my double digits. Before I turned 10, I had enough change in my pockets to buy my own soap, lotion, deodorant and frozen Snickers bars.

My childhood entrepreneurial pursuits included scratching my aunt’s scalp and dying her hair, writing and mailing letters for my grandmother, returning glass bottles for deposits, purchasing lollipops from the vendor at our town’s post office and reselling them at school for a profit, selling pickles, sodas and chips out of my locker and more.

Thanks to my lucrative pursuits, I had more of what I wanted than the average bear growing up in poverty, but I still hadn’t totally gotten the lesson about why it was important to hold my hand from some things. While I could buy more things, I still didn’t need everything I bought. I wanted it. And I still couldn’t understand why my mother thought there was something wrong with wanting better things for myself. At least, that’s how I made it all make sense.

It’s taken me a good portion of my life to realize the value in not going after everything I want and being sure my actual needs are met first. Despite my inability, as a child, to fully comprehend what my mother meant, I can say I never set out to give my children everything I never had. I’m quite sure if they read this, they’d agree. *chuckling*

What I’ve always wanted to give my children was a head start, a life that already included a foundation upon which they could continue to build long after I’m gone. Having that kind of life means they’d have to roll up their sleeves and do their part, too. People value what they toil to bring to life more than they do that which is given. Nothing was given to me. I’ve earned everything I have and don’t.

It’s important we weigh the value of giving our children everything we didn’t have. Trying to give them everything we didn’t have might sound good in theory, but in practice, we’re very well setting up ourselves, them and others for a lifetime of dealing with entitled, unmotivated, uninspired, rude, selfish, poorly coping, non-empathetic children.

I’ve caught a glimpse of this with my own children, not because I set out to give them everything I never had, but because my income over the years has allowed them to live at a higher standard than I did, which automatically gave them more, to include things I never had.

Our children don’t NEED everything we didn’t have, if EVERYTHING is based around materialism or the pursuit of materialism. Note that I didn’t mention wealth. The pursuit of materialism has nothing to do with actualized wealth for the majority of black people.

Our children don’t need $400 video gaming systems, $200 sneakers, $100 outfits and a host of other material items they can’t personally afford, if we, as their guardians, died today. We end up creating a cycle of dependency and entitlement that we’re forced to feed well into their adulthood, when we operate as if we’re balling (oh, how I despise this term). We soon find that these material acquisitions are never enough. Like someone addicted to drugs, the habit requires regular feeding.

Instead of giving our children these depreciable items subject to breakage and becoming outdated or outgrown, we should be gifting them something like an Acorns or Robinhood account. We should be undertaking challenges with them, like filling up a Mason jar with coins or bills and then depositing the money into accounts—multiple accounts for multiple investment and savings goals.

Video gaming systems don’t offer a return on investment, neither do expensive clothes, shoes and toys. Put simply, if we’re not being paid to play, we’re paying to play—one way or the other. Outside love, protection and provisions, the most significant thing many of us didn’t have was economic security. If we’re going to give anything we’ve never had, let it be that.

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2 responses to “Everything I Never Had”

  1. Laurie Lambert Avatar
    Laurie Lambert

    OUR “feelings” about money (materialism) appear to be CREATED in childhood. Often, WE don’t realize THAT til WE have much debt ” over our heads”…because we’re trying to fill voids that we aren’t aware exist within.

    1. Nandi Avatar

      You are absolutely correct. I dare say childhood sets the stage for the rest of our lives.

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