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The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Kids
How much would I have to pay you to give up your phone (and similar devices) and swear off the internet forever? Would any amount do it? A million dollars? 10 million? Let’s just say you’d consider it for $5 million, though for many of us it would be much more than that. Considering the smartphone didn’t exist until 15 years ago, and broadband not much earlier, you might say the current you is $5 million richer than you were two decades ago, regardless of your job or your savings or your lottery success. Sure, it’s not money you can spend on food, and you can’t exactly pay the mortgage with it either, but it’s still an incredible amount of value to have gained in such a short time. It’s the type of value we tend to discount, though, when tallying our lives.
I heard an economic professor use this illustration on a podcast recently. I immediately thought of my children. I doubt they would give up their iPads for all the toys in the world. I didn’t have an iPad growing up. I had a tube TV and a VCR that I shared with 3 siblings. I didn’t get my first black-and-white Gameboy until I was older than they are. Not that I knew any better. I thought I was doing pretty great at the time, but my childhood self would have drooled over my kids’ treasure of entertainment. They are much richer than I could have imagined, not with cash but with experience and knowledge and convenience. Our present life is an incredible gift, built up and delivered over the generations. We are all heirs to an immeasurable fortune. We should not forget it.
The appropriate response is gratitude. I try to keep this in mind when money is tight or work is frustrating or parenting is stressful, and I try to teach it to my kids as well. There are still many problems in life. We’ll never get rid of all hardships. When things get better, we just make up new ones. (Slow wi-fi is a genuine annoyance; 20 years ago we called it a miracle). But it helps to be grateful for what we’ve been given. It’s much harder to be upset about the dirty dishes overflowing or the boss asking you to work overtime while you’re overawed by the ridiculous comforts of your home, the infinitude of entertainment and convenience in your pocket, the ease of getting everything you could ever want delivered to your door, and all the work your parents and grandparents did to get you here. Ever notice how kids rarely grumble about being bored or complain about eating dinner on their birthday? A habitual awareness of our daily blessings is the greatest gift you can give your kids—or yourself. Gratitude is the best vaccine against discontent, and every day in this modern world is a festival of riches.