Monday, April 26, 2010

Parenting Woes, Garage Sale Misgivings.....

This morning I was running a  late to assist at my daughter's pre-school. Assistants come early, and at the pace we were going we would be lucky to make it by 9 am, when class starts.

As a result of the rushing, which at one point, included a very painful head butt while shoe-tying, we forgot our show-n-tell item for the day. I told my daughter to think of something she wanted to talk about.   The teacher, noticing this exchange noted that my daughter was wearing 2 pretty rings and suggested she talk about those.

At this point my panic set in. You'll notice that, like most people, my misgivings usually have something to do with the way we're raising my daughter. (More things they forget to tell you before you have children.)

My daughter got those rings this past weekend at a garage sale with my mother. She got a whole bunch of rings for a nickle. She also got a rather nice polly pockets set (uugh..... little shoes.....) with a case for $2.

If you are a regular reader or know me personally, you'll know that this is not a problem for me.  I have no issue with second hand items provided they are in nice condition.  I'm also not keen on spending large amounts of money on plastic crap. (Or anything really, for that matter.)  And finally, if we're going to have some of this junk, then from an environmental standpoint, I prefer secondhand.

This is also not a problem for my daughter. She is 5. She knows she sometimes gets toys from Target but will more easily get toys at a garage sale and that those toys may be bigger or nicer or more plentiful.  Heck, I bought her a bike for $10 at a sale at the end of the summer last year because her's was getting too small, with the intention that we would replace it with a new one this year. She doesn't want a new one now. We've asked. Most of her clothes come from the ever-mysterious (to my daughter) 8-Year old Evelyn. When I bring out something "new" she says with awe, "Was that Evelyn's?" When she moved into a big girl bed, she got a lovely sleigh bed, painted a creamy soft yellow. I trash picked it and painted it.  This is not a secret in our house. Doing so enabled us to afford an expensive, high quality mattress for her.  She loves it and sleeps very well in it. 

We live in a happy second-hand bubble.

And it was this bubble that I was afraid was going to burst today. Because I knew, I just knew, she would stand up there all proud and proclaim, "I got these rings at a GARAGE SALE!"

And then what would the kids say?

Turns out they could have cared less. Her teacher told us she frequently takes her grandchildren to garage sales.

But still in the back of my mind, I'm wondering if a day will come when someone makes her feel bad about being proud of her 2nd hand stuff.  When she looks at me with a look of skepticism, like I've somehow conned her in some way.  Deprived her of something everyone else got and she did not. She does in fact, have a lot of new things as well, I tell myself.  But I didn't grow up with second hand items so it doesn't seem like a big deal to me. I'd also be a hypocrite if I made it sound like we don't buy anything new. We do. I'm not any kind of second hand martyr. 

It's the pride in her voice that I fear someone will take away from her. And I guess that's the way it goes with most things right?  We've all been made to feel bad about something about ourselves. And it feels bad.  She doesn't yet know that there are things about her that others will reject or will not like. That hurts me. That hurts me more than the thought that there are things about me that other people don't like.

She'll live. We all do.

I guess I should be happy that she can stand up in front of her peers right now and proclaim something (anything), but the knowledge that it may not always be so, made me a little sad today.

Parenting is by far the thing that taxes me the most, intellectually and emotionally.....


Tree Huggin Momma said...

My daughters are 8 and 12 (today!). I have always had second hand for the both of them. When I was pregnant with the 12 year old, I was given three large black garabage bags of clothes (2 girls 1 boys). I went through the clothes and tossed all the stained stuff (not much) and most still had tags. When 12 was born we received even more clothes from cousins, and a family friend whose daugther was older than mine.

12 would always ask was this Cheyanne's? Because she loved Cheyanne's style, unfortunately in the last 3 years my girls have outgrown Cheyanne and we get fewer and fewer hand me down, but when my mom brings in bags of clothes the girls go wild.

We also shopped a lot at the Salvation Army. At one point 12 (who was then around 8) decided she needed new clothes not new to her clothes. So I gave her sister and her $20 each, to spend as they chose.
Her sister (then 5) picked out a ton of shirts and soft pants (think leggings) she even found several still with tags at the Salvation Army. 12 picked out a bunch of things she would like to get with her $20, but decided to go to Target and get something brand new. To her surpise instead of 5-10 items she could get 1 maybe 2 (if she skipped the fancy jeans and just got 2 tops). She bought her 2 new tops and they fell apart faster than greased lightning (she was not happy).

When we moved our girls to their new school this year, I was worried (because this would be the first year 12 wouldn't have a uniform). So a good friend said have you been to Platos Closet? and I said I was afraid it would be to pricey.

She dragged me (with the full intention of going to the Salvation Army afterwards). We hit the jackpot. Plato's Closet is name brand clothing (within the last three seasons) that is used. Everything was in great condition and priced the same or better than the Salvation Army, its our new favorite store.

Both of my girls are proud to be frugal and environmentally conscious, and yes they have both been teased for it, and they respond that the "clothes that you have to have new are only new until they have been worn once"

Someone will hurt her feelings, but as long as you teach her the why you do what you do, then she will be ok.

Christine said...

Tree Hugging Momma-Thanks for your long reply and Happy Birthday to your daughter!!!

I've never heard of Plato's closet before but I just took a look at the website. It seems like a great alternative for kids your daughter's ages.

It's also nice to hear from people not squeamish about second hand. It's great that your daughters are able to conceptualize that it's not big deal.

Amy D, in the Tightwad Gazette actually has a similar story of giving her kids money to spend on either new or used clothing and the difference between her two children. She found the same thing you did.

I think that perhaps, when people face the true economic picture and where over consumption has gotten us (on so many levels) that perhaps 2nd hand will be not such a big deal. I say this as a teenager of the 80's who always wore expensive name brand clothes, so there is hope for anyone!

And like I said, I don't claim to be a zealot or even a purist in that regard. I recently bought 4 shirts at Talbots. They were expensive (more so than Kohl's or Target) but I've found the quality there to be very good so my money goes farther, they last longer and I can wear them many places.

Ok now that sounds like I wear designer clothes and make my daughter dress in someone else's castoffs...The truth is she has both and my favorite pair of jeans is from someone else.

Meredith said...

I couldn't agree with you more - we are second hand here too. When I was pregnant, I got any clothes that I needed at the Godwill. Besides that, I wore my husbands t-shirts.
The baby gets mostly hand-me-downs that are just about always in great condition. We are lucky to have friends with boys that are just a little older than ours.
Honestly, I do not know how we would make it if we had to buy everything new.
And we wouldn't wan to even if we could afford it.
We also avoid what my husband calls "new crap smell". He hates the off-gassing that occurs with just about everything, as do I.

Christine said...


I often wonder how much money I've saved over the years with secondhand. We've been living like this for the 4 years that I have been home with our daughter. Before that, when I had a job, I didn't have time to find second hand things so we purchased everything new.

Anonymous said...

Of course I don't have to worry about peer pressure just yet, my oldest is only 4. I am a proud Goodwill and garage sale fan, and so is my daughter! We always find a treasure, and it is so much less overwhelming than at the store, where we all have a hard time deciding and often leave, out of frustration, with nothing.

We could not afford to live on brand new only, and rarely buy brand new (except for undies and pj's). We do re-use and recycle a lot of things, and have been so fortunate to have had generous amounts of hand me downs, which the kids think is the coolest thing. When they get older and start turning their noses up to used things, I plan on thinking up the history of an item. Where might those rings have been? On the hands of a bride, a princess, a cookie baking grandmother? How many tears may the hands wearing them have dried, how many babies held? How old might the girl have been who previously played with the PP's? Where they a Christmas gift? From whom? What games were played with them and what names where they given?
I hope that they will see the adventurous side of second hand for a while, until they can begin to understand economical and financial reasons behind the concept.
I do not, ever, turn down anything that is given or offered to me. We make use of everything, one way or another, and the girls, hopefully, will internalize that it means that we can go and splurge on ice cream (or more recently a bathing suit) instead. For now it means nothing to them if the item is brand new to them or previously loved. I hope, that at some point it will make a difference, and that they will be proud of being able to balance new with used.

Christine said...

Those are such nice thoughts Anja!

Karley Ziegler Mott said...

Great post, Christine. You know that I find joy in treasures found on the curb and exploring thrift shops.

While I still do get the boys many of their clothes in the stores (I do lots of Lands End and LL Bean for the quality), I do NOT hesitate to go to thrift shops, especially when I consider that the boys keep changing jean sizes and are always in need of something.

Last week, I found new with the tags still attached Old Navy jeans in Nick's size. The tag on that brand states the season. These were 4th quarter 2009. $1.99!

When I was growing up, it seemed as though there was a huge stigma attached to buying consignment or thrift shop. I remember ONCE in my life looking in a thrift store as a child and my mom didn't buy anything there for me.

In fact my first time in a thrift shop was in my late 20s and I fell in love :)

My favorite find is probably a Michael Kors top, a $2 Max Studio dress...or perhaps 7 for All Mankind Jeans for $5 :)

I also get chapter books there for Nick often.

I have found so many high quality items at great prices. It is more economical and eco-friendly, too.

The boys are OK with it. Nick is more label conscious...Ben loves to go to "the Salmation Army" as he calls it.

Emma has a good head on her shoulders--something you and your husband have instilled in her. I am so proud that she is confident like this.