Do you remember parachute pants?
If you do, sorry I brought it up.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s probably a good thing.
Parachute pants were slim fitting pants made of a similar material to that of a parachute. They made you hot in the spring and summer (imagine that material sticking to your sweaty, bare skin) and cold in the fall and winter (like a walking-around-without-wearing-pants kind of cold). I honestly have no idea what season was a good time to wear them, but they were the rage when I as in seventh grade, and I had to have them.
Fast forward about thirty years and my seventeen-year-old son is standing in the kitchen presenting his case for why we should purchase him some Chubbies shorts—the latest and greatest in summer men’s wear. We looked at the website together and with great excitement he showed us all the different colors and designs.
“Son, you know our budget for your summer clothes. If you buy three pairs of these, you won’t be able to buy anything else.”
“I know. I don’t care. I really want them.”
“But what about shoes and shirts and a swimsuit and . . .”
“I’ll figure it out. I really want these shorts.”
“Ok, it’s your choice, bud.”
My son chose to order three pairs of Chubbies shorts that day.
A tan pair.
An American flag pair.
And a tangerine pair.
Do you know what happens when you have three pairs of shorts that are as memorable as the American flag or the color tangerine? A new day is created. I called it Tangerine Day. As the shorts rotated through the days of the week, sure enough, every third day was Tangerine Day.
Watching my son go through that summer with just three pairs of shorts, struggling to find shirts to match them, was so hard for me. Listening to him talk about having nothing to wear was frustrating. I’m sure I gave him the “I told you so” speech.
I was tempted, daily, to take him shopping for more clothes—so tempted! But I knew if he was going to learn anything about being smart about his purchases I had to let the situation run its course.
This past week, my son was home from college for spring break. I noticed he was wearing some new shoes.
“Love the new shoes, bud. Where’d you get them?”
“Oh, these? I got them on sale for eight bucks.”
The moral of this story: Tangerine Day will be just a phase.
It will pass.
But the lessons learned about being smart with your money, those will last a lifetime.
So give your kids a budget, and let them make the choices on what they will buy. But be strong. Let them live with the consequences of their choices. I promise, having to wear tangerine shorts—or parachute pants—every third day is so much better than what could happen later on in life when the stakes are higher.