I was about twelves years old and shopping with my mom at my local K-mart when I learned the most valuable lesson she may have ever instilled in me.
For months prior to this day, I was becoming obsessed with rollerskating and spent every Friday evening at the local rink wishing the boy I was crushed on would ask me to slow skate with him, eating lemon heads with my girlfriends and basically feeling what freedom away from your parents felt like. I watched as some of the other girls started to show up with fancy white leather roller-skates with pink wheels and that amazingly cool toe stop. I noticed that some girls even got snazzy shoe-laces to make their cool skates look even cooler. These girls were no longer renting the smelling unisex brown and red skates that usually had a sticky wheel or some other defect, instead they looked like movies stars skirting around the rink. In my mind I was also convinced that they got asked to skate the slow skates with cute boys because of the skates, but I could have been wrong.
The late afternoon day at K-mart I was eyeing the same white leather with pink stopper skates that all the popular girls where bringing to the skating rink in a cool bag. I had been wearing old metal skates around my neighborhood that you just wore with your sneakers. Lame. I wanted to glide around my neighborhood and carry them into the rink on Friday like the popular girls. I wanted so badly to have these skates.
My mom found me in the aisle and I begged her with all my begging ability to buy the skates for me. They were priced at $10.97 and they had my size. They fit perfectly and I was about as excited as a girl could have been.
Nope. Her response to me asking was, “Save up your money and when you have enough, I will bring you back”.
She was not going to buy me roller-skates when I had “perfectly good ones at home that fit just fine“. She did not want to hear that other girls had them because that was the last thing she cared about (another amazing lesson). My mom was the type of mom that you did not ask twice if the answer the first time wasn’t what you wanted. You just learned to accept the answer no matter how crushed you might have been.
I was crushed.
I remember fighting back the tears and feeling so frustrated that she would not buy them for me. I was mad and jealous all at the same time. Why did I have to be the stupid paper girl tossing newspapers onto people’s porches, smelling like ink and being laughed at? Why couldn’t I just be the pretty girl that had fancy new skates with sparkly shoelaces and whatever else fad that came along?
Because my mom was teaching me the value of earning what you think you need. She was teaching me the value of waiting until you can get it yourself. She was teaching me the reward of working hard and saving up for something. She was teaching me that I can provide for myself.
What a gift that was and one that has served me so well. In fact I would rather work hard, save up for something and know that I earned it, than be given something. It feels richer knowing that I made choices to get something I wanted and I certainly learned to take really good care of what I worked myself to get.
The lesson that day is one of what people call a defining moment.
I will say that walking into the skating rink the next Friday night felt pretty amazing. The skates glided and I felt so good. I would love to say the boy asked me to skate, but he didn’t. That is okay because I gained so much self-value that I didn’t need a silly boy to hold my hand to the slow songs of Lionel Richie.
From that day forward, I polished my skates off after each use and prayed that my feet didn’t grow too fast. Oh, and my mom did end up buying me the sparkly laces and even made me a pom-pom to go on top.