Ellen works as a waitress and makes sure her daughter Kiara has everything she needs. When she starts having temper tantrums because she isn’t thankful, Ellen loses it. For her daughter’s birthday, she tries to teach her a lesson.
I know what everyone usually wants because I’m a waitress. I know what they want to eat, how they want it cooked, and what they’d rather have than bacon that’s greasy or veggies that are too wet. One thing I don’t know how to do, though, is make my daughter behave better.
My daughter Kiara is almost 14 years old. It used to be that she was a sweet little girl, but when she hit puberty, she became very moody. Now, the fact that I work as a waitress and my husband Joe is an electrician makes her feel bad.
We don’t have to fight to make ends meet, and she wants us to be the cool parents who can give her everything she wants, even expensive and pointless gifts.
For some reason, Kiara isn’t really thankful for the things we gave her for Christmas and her birthday. She often throws tantrums and then threatens or says, “I don’t want to see you!” before slamming her bedroom door.
Of course, this behavior hurt us because Joe and I were used to giving Kiara everything we could. We did everything we could to meet her needs.
But the truth is that we missed the little girl who used to make us breakfast and mess up the kitchen with flour and toast bits. We thought it was the cutest thing ever.
She would say, “Sorry, Mommy,” and her bottom lip would shake when I found the mess.
I love everything about her and would pick her up and kiss her lips.
Things changed when she became an adult.
Last week was Kiara’s birthday, and she told a big secret at dinner one night.
“Mom,” she said. “I really want a handbag. A fancy one that Sophie’s parents bought for her on her birthday. All the girls are asking their parents for it. It’s going to be our thing.”
This girl meant a handbag that was way too expensive when she said “handbag.” This is about the designer stuff that costs more than our rent and possibly our food. Joe and I knew we couldn’t pay for it.
Just before her birthday, Kiara came up to me while I was baking scones for Joe.
“Mom,” she said as she nibbled on the sultanas I was adding to the batter. “How’s the birthday present coming along? The handbag, right?”
“Honey, you know we can’t afford that. We just don’t have that kind of money lying around. Isn’t there something else you’d like?”
“No! You promised!” Kiara exclaimed. “You said you would help me fit in with the girls at school. It’s not my fault that you chose this life for us! Come on, Ellen.”
When she wanted to get Joe and me mad, she would call us by our names, which was really annoying.
“Kia,” I told her. “The events of my life have led to this.” Your dad and I do our best, so you should be thankful for everything we do.”
She gave me a hard look, then turned around and left. After a short time, her bedroom door slammed shut.
It was too much for me to handle. It got to be too much for me these days. I came up with a plan. A lesson in how to value what you already have.
I put Kiara’s cake and gift on the coffee table for her party. Joe had to work anyway, so I pretended I worked an extra shift at the diner. Truly, I was interested in seeing how Kiara would respond to her gifts while I stayed out of sight.
We had decided that Joe and I would do anything to teach her a lesson. Our savings were cut by a lot when we bought the bag, but we saw it as a lesson.
I put on my uniform and ran to the door when I heard her moving around in her room.
“Kiara, I’m leaving! See you later!” I called out and closed the front door behind me.
After that, I went across the house to the other side. I planned to wait on the bench under the window in the living room until she went to get her presents.
I didn’t have to wait long because after a few minutes I heard her heavy steps on the wooden floors. I looked out the window, even though I knew I was very hidden.
Kiara’s eyes lit up as she walked into the living room. But when she read the note, her face fell and turned red.
Kia, happy birthday! We love you, and we’re sorry we couldn’t be with you to see the party. We had to work longer hours to pay for your birthday present. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Following that, I left her alone for the rest of the day and went to our neighbor’s house to have tea and tell her about my plans for Kiara.
When we all got together for dinner later that night, I could tell Kiara had changed. She did get what she wanted, but at what cost? She had been by herself on her birthday.
She smiled at me as I gave her plate, and her face reminded me of the kid we did know.
She said, “Mom,” as she dug into her chicken. “You can return the handbag.”
“Why would we do that?” Joe winked at me and asked her.
“Because I love it so much, which I do. I truly do. You have to work to pay for my birthday, so it’s not worth being alone on it. I’m sorry, but it’s not fair to either of you.”
It went even better than I thought it would.
We finally talked about how much things cost and how different life was now than when Kiara was younger. They taught her that there were now more costs and that we had to be realistic about how much we could give her.
The girl even helped me clean up after myself.
Joe told her to keep the bag and that we would work to pay it off. He also told her to remember that she needed to save money if she wanted to buy nice things.
Kiara is making a list of possible part-time jobs she could have over the holidays while we eat the birthday cake. She now knows that she needs to learn to value what she has.
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What would you have done if it were your daughter?
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