Browsed by
Tag: parenting

Credit cards and teenagers

Credit cards and teenagers

What I am reading
This is strangely sad: Aardman studios – makers of Shawn the Sheep, Chicken Run & Wallace and Gromit – is apparently running out of clay. EDIT: apparently it is transitioning to another supplier. PHEW!

“I wanted to understand: what kind of human spends their days exploiting our dumbest impulses for traffic and profit? Who the hell are these people making money off of everyone else’s misery?” Did SEO experts ruin the internet, or did google?

Wages are high. Jobs are plentiful. Nobody’s happy.

The case for inviting everyone to everything. I often dream of having a GIANT pool party and inviting everyone I know. Why not get to know each other before my funeral?

Morgan Housel on the full reset. I have been doing our budget for the same way for years so maybe Mr. Tucker can take a stab at a new one for 2024?

What I’m thinking about
I am letting the kids go shopping for winter clothes tonight. They are going to meet at the mall and go shopping together. The Eldest needs a winter coat and The Youngest needs new boots. I set down a few rules around budget and type (ie: they have to be waterproof winter boots with a lining, the coat must be for winter) but they are free to get the style they want. In order to do this, The Eldest will pay on her credit card.

I got The Eldest her own credit card when the kids went on an oversees trip with a relative. I was scared that they would end up getting stuck somewhere without money. It’s also been handy because it’s allowed her to make her own purchases (that we’ve agreed to) for things like back-to-school shopping and the odd lunch at school when she forgets hers. Next year when The Youngest turns 14, they too will get their own credit card. (I also want to set them up with an Uber Family profile for the exact same reason but unfortunately I haven’t been able to get that to work yet.)

To be honest: I can’t say if this is a good idea or a bad idea long term for teaching them about credit cards. I just know that as a mom with two kids (who will be in two different high schools who will go out with friends and who may ended up stranded somewhere) it makes me feel better to know that they have something to pay to get them home.

What I have done is that when The Eldest wants to spend money before she’s earned it, I let her use the credit card – with a catch. On Saturday she decided at the last minute to hit the mall with her friends and asked me if she could spend the money she would have earned on Sunday doing the housecleaning & just use the credit card. I said yes – but that she would have to “pay interest” by taking a lower amount of money than what she would get if she waited until after the work was done (payday loan style – but less aggressive). She agreed to the lower amount and happily went off to spend the rest at the mall with her friends.

Now some of you are thinking that this is horrible, some of you think it’s great and the rest of you think I probably should have made the amount higher if she so readily agreed. Overall though, I am pleased with giving her the options and allowing her to make the choice. I haven’t figured out how to navigate the actual management of a credit card as she transitions into adulthood and needs to manage her own budget. What I do know is that I plan to get her there before she encounters the predatory credit card offers with the “free gifts” that are ubiquitous all over student commons’ everywhere (if she even chooses to go to post-secondary).

She did ask me if they could buy dinner at the mall, to which I said no (we’ve eaten out too much this month) because we have food at home – the rallying cry of mothers everywhere! But I did agree that they could get a bubble tea when they were done shopping, as a little treat (hah, the irony is not lost on me).

What makes a home & chore theory

What makes a home & chore theory

What I’m reading
Children of homeowners twice as likely to own homes themselves.

Almost 40% of US homeowners own their homes outright as of 2022—many of them baby boomers who refinanced when rates were low.

The list of brain conditions that have been associated with changes elsewhere in the body is long and growing. Changes in the make-up of the microorganisms resident in the gut, for example, have been linked to disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.The brain and body are intertwined.

A thought piece
This is a FANTASTIC piece: how your house makes you miserable. “How do you make your home entirely your own — a reflection of your good taste! — while also making it wholly acceptable to the market-reflected gaze? The only solution is to make the market-inflected taste your taste. And that experience can be incredibly alienating, particularly when you convince yourself that you’re doing a remodel that you’re going to love, spend a ton of time and energy on it, and then look around and think meh.”

When we bought our house a friend of mine said to me, “Yeah, we looked at that house but it needed so many renovations to make it liveable.” WHAT? This house was in perfect condition when we bought it and in the 6 years we’ve lived here we have few problems (the oven died but it was original to the house – 1962!). We did do some cosmetic work to the house such as tear up all of the white carpet and refinish the hardwood underneath. We also installed laminate throughout the basement (again, white carpet) as well as replace the vanity in the main bathroom to a two-sink Ikea one for the kids & replaced the linoleum with tile flooring. Overall though, we only spent about $1500 in those cosmetic changes. Conversely, I think this friend wanted to turn this mid-century bungalow into a modern showpiece which would have required tearing down walls, putting in marble counters etc. We liked it just the way it was.

Sure our cabinets are crappy 80s ones that have been painted white and we unfortunately have popcorn ceilings (which people apparently hate but I am neutral on the subject). I just think that not everything has to look like it’s about to be featured on HGTV. I remember my friends and I all living in a bunch of old, crummy apartments with weirdly angled ceilings and wonky closet doors. All of these places had charm because they were each vastly different from each other. We also used to decorate with a mish-mash of found items interspersed with Ikea furniture and every place was so different from another one.

I guess renovating the condo has put this to the forefront of my mind because a condo is a different beast. A friend of ours had suggested that we just sell it “as is” with all the smoke damage, the yellow paint, shitty cabinets and no appliances. But I think people expect more of a turnkey experience with a condo where a house is more of a place that you would accept some imperfections in exchange for the location, land and bones of the place. The condo cabinets and the counters *do* look dated which is a pain when you are trying to sell. But I am loathe to tear them out and do a full reno because a> it’s wasteful; b> the people who buy it may just tear it all out and reno themselves anyway. I abhor the idea of wasting all that time and money only to have it all tossed into the garbage. So we’ve mostly focused on replacing the damaged bits, did smoke remediation, tossed on a coat of fresh paint and bought new appliances.

I think as well that we view our house as our HOME and not an investment. So we don’t care to be constantly updating it. It’s also why I installed a sit-down tub instead of a roll-in shower. Yes, the tub was very expensive AND it will reduce the value of the home should we put it on the market. But so what? I plan to have my corpse dragged out of here and during my (hopefully long) lifetime I will get a lot of enjoyment out of being able to take a bath whenever I want.

Child labour
We asked the kids if they would like to clean the house on the weekend for the same amount of money we pay the housecleaner. The reason why is because The Eldest had Covid last week and so we told the cleaner not to come (clearly!) but the house still needed a good once-over. They were really excited about earning money and The Youngest was even more excited to learn that the money I offered was for EACH of them and not SPLIT between them. Haha. Crap, I could have paid them even less! 😉

The kids did a FANTASTIC job – as good or even better than our housecleaner does. I was thoroughly impressed. To be fair, we used to clean as a family and so they have had years of practice. But post-pandemic with all of the busy-ness and my health we decided that having someone come and clean every two weeks was worth the money.

My kids have always had unpaid chores. From the time they were toddlers at the end of the day we would play music, dance around and put our toys away before dinner. This was to get them into the habit of tidying, not because they were good at it. Us parents did most of the actual tidying but over time they grew into the habit of actually putting their stuff away at the end of the day and then we just built on that.

By 6 & 8 they learned how to do the basics of cleaning by doing it with us, and by 10 & 12 they knew how to clean the entire house. That isn’t to say that the adults didn’t take on the majority of the work at first but over time they slowly did more and more on their own until we did none. They still do tidying in between the housekeeper visits as well as washing the dishes every night. We’ve also taught them some basic dishes that they can cook on their own. The Youngest in particular has been asking to learn more about cooking, so we are taking the time to teach them how to cook a variety of meals.

The one chore we actually pay the kids to do is folding and putting away my laundry. Mr. Tucker’s office is right next to the laundry room so he generally washes the clothes during the week so that by the weekend it’s all clean and in baskets. So on the weekend, they have to separate and fold/put away the household stuff (ie: towels and sheets) as well as do their own. Mr. Tucker is super picky so his is left and just does it when they are done.

In a sense, being disabled has really helped with teaching kids how to do chores. Children can be the masters of strategic incompetence when they don’t want to do something. So many parents just throw up their hands and do the task because ensuring a child learns how to do a chore can take twice as long and is way more stressful. But in my situation, I had no choice. I had to work through the process of them resisting learning how to do things because I just could not physically do them anymore. Of course, we are now all better off: the kids 100% have the skills to feed themselves and maintain a home and Mr. Tucker and I don’t have to struggle doing all the house stuff.

What’s even better is that they are proud of their skills. The Youngest came home once and told me that none of their friends were forced to do chores at home*. Their friends were saying things such as, “Why do you have to do anything? I don’t have to do any chores and I still get an allowance!” & The Youngest replied, “Because I live there for free? It’s only fair that I help out. Besides, I have the skills to live on my own now and you don’t.**” I was pretty impressed with that answer because it’s an astute observation for a 13-year-old to make I live there for free and it’s only fair that I help out.

We had planned to take up most of the housecleaning ourselves when Mr. Tucker retired but both kids said that they were happy to get paid to deep clean the house. So we may end up paying them to do the deep clean once-a-month instead. They like earning the money, they do a great job and since we generally manage to keep the house tidy enough in between deep cleans, it will work out for everyone. Of course, the time will come when they will be too busy with school and their own jobs. But then Mr. Tucker and I can take it back over.

Hope you are having a lovely Tuesday!

*The Eldest has also said this. It’s up for debate as to whether or not that is the truth. I am sure many kids have responsibilities.
**Ok, a bit rude and I also learned the trial by fire way when I first moved out and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Children & devices

Children & devices

Links
How to weigh the risks of social media a conversation with Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
• Visual Capitalist and the most popular social media apps (ranked by downloads).

Thoughts
My kids often complain that my device policy is horrible because their friends get their devices 24-7. I tell them that I don’t care what other parents do (which is the response as old as time). Of course, the internet comes with all sorts of complications – and is addictive: Social media gets teens hooked while feeding aggression and impulsivity, and researchers think they know why.

Yesterday The Eldest had a conflict with someone she knows peripherally, and this kid posted a nasty story to her Instagram about my kid – complete with pics. But my kid just took it in stride. She was upset but not bothered too much by it, which was incredibly grown up of her. We had a great conversation about how she takes some responsibility for the argument but that she felt this kid went too far. My kid has a locked-down social media presence on this platform, which I think she was grateful for as the other kid didn’t have much material to work with in terms of her public shaming.

She showed me this girl’s Instagram and I was floored: I swear it looked like an OnlyFans account (think: pic of a butt wearing only a thong with a painted handprint on one of the cheeks). Suddenly, I was just so profoundly sad for this girl who is only 15 years old and so obviously lacking in positive attention. It struck me as super dangerous for a child this age to be posting unlocked photos like that to the internet at large. As someone who grew up with ZERO parental involvement in my life, it made me wonder about what her life at home was like and if she had someone who loved her and who would find that account and put a stop to it? I did a LOT of dumb things as a teen who spiraled without adequate oversight from an adult but that was in the beforetimes. In the age of the internet whose memory is long it really makes me worry.

I will admit, a lot of these feelings come from the feelings from within me but wow, I was unprepared for how depressed seeing that account made me. I wanted to reach through the internet and scream, “That’s enough of that! I’ll be your mom!” But it’s conceited to think that her parents aren’t involved. Maybe she eludes them because they are less tech savvy than her and she has multiple accounts? I don’t know. I’m in no position to judge.

I was impressed about how The Eldest responded to this bait though: she ignored it. I am lucky that she has a core sense of self and a group of amazing friends who are incredibly supportive and kind. I would have killed to have half as much self-worth as a teen that my kid has. Of course, I did find my tribe eventually and some of those friendships are now 30 years old. But I can say I am grateful for not having to navigate the internet in my early teen years.

Just keep on keeping on

Just keep on keeping on

What I’m reading
Vanguard’s guide to retirement withdrawal strategies.

[E]very conversation takes place on two levels. The official conversation is represented by the words we are saying on whatever topic we are talking about. The actual conversations occur amid the ebb and flow of emotions that get transmitted as we talk. With every comment I am showing you respect or disrespect, making you feel a little safer or a little more threatened. The Essential Skills of Being Human.

Deep thoughts
When the kids came home last night the first thing they both said when they walked in the door (1/2 hour apart) is, “You’re dressed! What’s going on!?” UGH. I need to get out more. In my defense, it’s been a lot of bedrest for medical reasons and once that was done, Mr. Tucker had condo stuff to do in his spare time so all personal stuff was de-prioritized as we ended up in survival mode. But it’s time.

Still, I want my kids to remember having an active mother who go out as much as she could despite disability. In general, I feel like I am way more active than a lot of other disabled folks. Some it’s due to the severity of their disability and for some it’s just plain giving up. If I was a researcher I would study the health trajectories/outcomes of people who had a positive, life-affirming attitude and those who give up once they’re diagnosed. I am happy to offer support, kind words and resources to people going through a rough time – sometimes you just need to complain to other people who understand what you are going through. But I’ve had to block individuals in online PLS groups because they were posting constantly about how awful they felt and how they can’t do anything and how all of their friends don’t want to hang out with them. It was a constant barrage of pity-party posts and it just exhausted me and brought me down. I think perhaps these people should reflect on whether or not it was disability that turned people off or if it was the constant complaining?

But truth be told, while I have experienced some of that, most of my good friendships got stronger after I was diagnosed. Sure, some people will always fall by the wayside but it’s difficult to tease out how much of that is just a natural progression in friendship and what is an inability to manage someone’s diagnosis. I keep showing up for them and in turn they keep showing up for me.

But back to last night’s astute observation by my kids. If I’m honest, pre-pandemic I went to the gym 3-5 days a week, did dragon boat, walked or biked around the neighbourhood more and did physiotherapy twice a week. Since then, I haven’t been back to my usual activity levels and my return to dragon boat was thwarted by my broken foot followed by a huge pelvic surgery (that went a bit sideways). It feels like since we have been back post-pandemic with some regularity, it’s been one thing after another. Having said that, I am determined to change that even as we head into winter. I think I have been focusing too much on what I can’t do and not really focusing on what I can. In other words, while I am not whinging about it on facebook, I am falling into the same trap of the people who constantly complain. I need to show up for me.

Next weekend is pretty social with games night and heading out for dinner with friends on Friday night. The following weekend is book club. These things remind me that I am still doing things but I am just not back up to the level I once was. I plan to change that.

What I’m up to
Mr. Tucker is at the condo today as the appliances have been delivered. He sent me a picture and they look FANTASTIC! He also replaced the vent covers, replaced the shower curtainrod and now he’s putting the doors back on and measuring a few things. The last things we need to do are: fix the window, install the microwave, replace the bathroom fixture and replace a curtain on the closet.

It finally feels like we are in the home stretch and are almost ready to put it on the market!

Oh, and as for last night: we went out to buy paint for the room switch! The Eldest is moving into the office downstairs and Mr. Tucker is moving the office upstairs. He plans to do most of the painting next weekend as it is American Thanksgiving and it’s super slow at work. That will leave him energy to paint at night. Then on the weekend, we will move her stuff downstairs. Damn, it will be good to be able to have a shared office again. I have a desk tucked into a corner of the living room and quite frankly – it sucks.

Since we’ve also used almost none of our pocket money this month, afterwards we treated the kids to dinner. It was a pretty lovely evening and it felt good to be out.

Bon Vindredi à tous!

Just a pile of links today

Just a pile of links today

What I am reading
One of the most fascinating things about the current inflationary environment is how little people’s buying habits have changed. It’s interesting to see that people expect prices to either go down or stay the same but to have their salaries go up. This is not how things work. A great article on how people don’t understand how inflation works.

Inside the OnlyFans top earner empire. “Why would I spend my day doing dirty, degrading, minimum-wage labor when I can do something that brings more money in and that I have a lot more control over?”

When I was a first-time parent I was determined to keep up my beer-swigging, partying self to some extent. A lot of it had to do with facing a bunch of (what was in my head) pearl-clutching, pinched-faced parents who were uptight. In retrospect, a lot of us were feeling judged because we were judging ourselves. You never feel quite up to snuff as a parent and a lot of our feelings of being judged came from within us. Generally speaking unless it’s, say, an egregious drunken fist fight at the school fundraiser, most people don’t think of us at all. Adulthood is a mirage.

I can’t wait to the follow-up pro-buying post from this site as well: does renting make your finances more predictable? Most of my (very rich) friends rent and so we are outliers in that sense. They are also childfree, which we are not. This is kind of a Reverse Uno of the normal way of things from what I hear from the culture at large. It also means that I have a very middle-of-the-road stance on this issue. My tl;dr on this issue is that if you have money or are able-bodied, renting is almost always better.

What I am doing
It was winter tire day here and I really need to get that changeover price down now that our car is out of warrantee. It’s just way too expensive. We also should try and sell our winter tires from the old minivan as they are taking up room in our garage.

I slept in today because Mr. Tucker was off early to drop The Eldest off at band & then to the car appointment. Not having our morning coffee & convo to look forward to, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I often forget that I am retired and I don’t have to get up if I don’t want to!

Off to read! Happy Thursday to all who celebrate!

Money lessons, learned?

Money lessons, learned?

As a parent, as you raise your kids you just have to cross your fingers and hope that they got the lessons and will apply the teachings to their lives. You know that not everything will stick and you also know that some things have to be experienced, not just told to you. It’s a lot of work for not knowing the outcome.

Since the eldest has started her first job, we’ve done our best to give her financial advice in a way that isn’t too finger-wagging but that still encourages her to plan for saving and future spending. She luckily was given three permanent guaranteed shifts, three days a week, or 25 hours. It’s a perfect way to start your first job, in my opinion. Since she’s started though, she’s realized that she can also pick up MORE shifts and that MORE shifts means MORE money. So she got out a calculator to figure out how many shifts a week she could reasonably work. Bless her heart!

Also, because the city has had such a hard time hiring and retaining staff, they’ve also changed their NO OVERTIME policy and are allowing the wading pool attendants to get time and a half for every hour worked over 44 hours. So the eldest got her calculator out again and figured out how much she could make in a week.


Off to her first day of work

Of course, I don’t want my 15-year-old to work over 44 hours a week but I think the process is valuable. It makes her calculate – and evaluate – how much time she wants to trade for money. I think she also thought that her friends would be around much more than they have been this summer. Many of them have cottages or have gone on trips so her off time is generally spent playing video games & staying home. I think that is what has prompted her to pick up as many shifts as she can: she really wants to save enough to spend during the school year, when her friends are around and they want to go out and do things.

I would be lying if it didn’t warm my cold, goth heart when she called me into her room to tell me about the financial plan she had worked out based on a theoretical amount of shifts she can pick up over the next 5 weeks. She had stuck to my 50% long term savings, 25% short term savings for the school year and the 25% spend now plan! I was super proud of her even though I only said she had to put X amount into long term savings – she decided on her own to save more!

Of course, I did tell her that she should take her first pay and spend it all, as a treat for getting her first job. She ended up getting paid and taking her sister to the mall with her so she could pick up a few things. Sure, she spent money on things that I thought were useless but we all spend in ways that other people wouldn’t! She also kindly bought her sister a cute sweater.

What I found telling though is that the eldest also decided to buy them both lunch at the food court while they were there. When she got home with her spoils she confided in her dad and I, “I wish I hadn’t bought the fast food. It was $30 – two hours of work – and it wasn’t even that good! Oh well.”

Lesson learned, indeed.

My kid got her first job

My kid got her first job

Mr. Tucker and I both had pretty shitty first jobs. He worked in a camp for a stipend (which is really a volunteer position) when he was a teen but his first “real job” was in fast food. My first job was at 13 at a downtown restaurant with a takeout counter. When I was 14 I switched to working as an overnight busser on weekends. It was one of the two only restaurants that were open 24 hours so since I worked the weekends it was…not ok. Although the late 80s and early 90s were a different time, looking back on it an underage kid should not have been exposed to so many drunk people and their inability to keep their hands to themselves. Mr. Tucker also worked in a west-end fast food place after the bars closed and it was challenging in similar ways, mostly fights.

While I truly believe that everyone should work a shitty, low-paying job at least once in their life, I don’t necessarily think that should be your first job out of the gate. In fact, I think my most hated job (next to the ONE day I did telemarketing) was in a big box craft store* (yes, that one).

So when it came to the eldest, I decided to stack the deck in her favour. Because she loves skiing so much and has aged out of the lessons, she took her first ski instructor course this winter – and passed! So now she is a certified Level I Ski Instructor and she hopes to get hired at a local hill next season. I had also heard that the city was looking to fill a bunch of lifeguarding jobs, so she started down that path last fall. At 15, she now has her Bronze Medallion and Standard First Aid with CPR-C. This got her an interview – and a subsequent job offer – to work for the city this summer! Although I saw that you didn’t need experience in anything, it did recommend that you have some lifeguarding training and SFA/CPR was a requirement.

The eldest is blasé when it comes to continuing lifeguarding courses but at the very least what she does have has helped her get a job where she gets to spend all day out in the fresh air all summer. It’s also a job where there aren’t early mornings/late nights and it is more family-oriented (which doesn’t mean NO challenges but certainly reduces the potential to be around drunk, handsy people). She will also be placed in our general area of the city, which means she can probably bike to work which will also be great exercise.

My goal for both of the children is to get them to 16, pay for Driver’s Ed, pay for them to get their driver’s license and then set them freeeeeeeeeeeeeee to pay for the things they want after that**, by which I mean no more allowance.

I did sit the eldest down and drew her this fine sketch:


Behold! My incredible art skills make charts come to life!

I then told her that her first week of pay should be one of celebration: celebrate getting your first job and spend a week’s worth of earnings on buying things that she wants. But after that, it’s time to buckle down. I suggested that she budget:

50% to long term savings: this amount will go into a high-interest savings account for when she is unemployed or if she is in university and needs money to go out, buy herself things etc. Also, she knows that we have enough for a local school but if she chooses to go away for university she will probably have to chip in.

25% to long term spending: this is the money she can put in a savings account for the fall when she is in between jobs but still wants to go out and hang out with friends. Essentially, she will need to spread this amount over 4 months from September to December until she is working again in the winter. It’s basically teaching her to budget & monitor her spending so that she doesn’t run out of money.

25% to short term spending: this is the amount that she can spend free and clear every pay without having to worry.

In this example, I gave the example of a $500 paycheque to illustrate how she would divvy it up.

Do I anticipate that this will go 100% smoothly? I do not. BUT she at least has a game plan in mind and a goal to try and achieve when the stakes are relatively low. I feel like teenagers are kind of the perfect audience for this kind of budget teaching: they will test the waters and (most likely) find themselves coming up short. But they will learn the lesson and take it with them all through their financial journey. Like anyone, they will need to actually experience the highs and lows of money management until they figure what works for them. All you can do as a parent is teach the lesson, give them encouragement and support (not judgement) and hope that remember the lesson when they need it the most – when the stakes are higher.

She is eager to work as many hours as she can this summer but we will see what happens. Either way, it’s another milestone on the way to adulthood!


Filling out the ubiquitous onboarding forms – get used to this, kid


*I should have known that they’d be awful when “training” consisted of watching an anti-union video. They consistently understaffed and overworked people and the final straw for me was when they scheduled me at the same time that I had requested off to take a university exam. I walked out.

**Clearly we will still pay for clothes, food, shelter, education etc.

Milestones – Registered Education Savings Program

Milestones – Registered Education Savings Program

I really try and not look at our investments in this bear market because it doesn’t change any of our savings behaviours and it won’t make a lick of difference to stress myself out like that. HOWEVER, I got to thinking about the things we save for and I wondered, “what does tuition at a local university look like now?” Some quick googling later and I realized that we have enough education savings for both kids to each do a four year degree at a local university (even with our market losses).

What is really interesting is how the savings is divided. Half of that half of that savings happened in the past 3 years when we had more money to put away. The other half of it was mostly all done in the 9 years previous to that! When the Sprout was born we opened an RESP at a bank and started saving $80 a month – $40 for each child. It wasn’t a lot but it was all we had. On top of that, we asked family to contribute to the RESP for birthdays and Christmas. The kids were young, probably wouldn’t remember anything that they bought them but we figured that they would appreciate being able to go to post-secondary without debt. So for years we added all the cash they got to their savings – until they were older and wanted to use the money for other things, of course.

We still aren’t finished saving for them as they are only 12 and 14 now. It is nice to know that tiny amounts saved over long periods have got us to the point where they won’t have to worry about student loans for at least an undergraduate degree.

So if you are a young family and thinking of saving in an RESP but are worried that you don’t have a lot to contribute, remember that $40 a month + gifts from family essentially added up to half of a degree for her by the time my eldest was 14. Of course, as soon as we made more we invested more and that covered the other two years. The takeaway here is that small amounts invested over long periods add up to big gains. The difference between taking a student loan for two years vs. four years is also huge in terms of time it will take to pay it back. If they get scholarships, great – you have enough to help with grad school! If they decide to not go to post-secondary, great – it can be rolled into an RRSP (contribution room willing).

To learn more about the RESP, check out the Government of Canada website.

Sobriety

Sobriety

It happens as it usually does: a period of time where Mr. Tucker and I find ourselves drinking a lot of alcohol but enjoying it less and less. Our solution to that is usually a month of sobering up followed by some grandiose “falling off the wagon” as a holiday hits, friends come over, or it’s Friday. Rinse, repeat.

The pandemic has brought with it exploding alcohol sales. In the spring drinking just brought me anxiety but once the summer hit I was kicking back poolside, drink in hand. The seasons turned once again and by the fall I couldn’t get any sleep unless I had a drink or two. It wasn’t until October that Mr. Tucker and I realized that we were just drinking because it was habit and that neither of us was enjoying it all that much. So one day I turned to him and said, “Do you think we could quit drinking for an entire year?”

So on November 1st we completely stopped drinking alcohol for one entire year.

As creatures of habit I knew what our patterns were and I wanted to break them. I chose a year because it is probably the longest either of us has gone without a drink since we met (even pregnancy is only 9 months!). We also aren’t used to denying ourselves. Mr. Tucker and I are so incredibly compatible but that’s a bad thing if you are heading in the wrong direction. Also, Mr. Tucker is the worst at being the bad guy. Having a supportive partner is amazing but it also means that he sometimes enables my bad behaviour. For example, we will set a goal and say, try to not spend money because we are saving for something. Mr. Tucker will be great at not spending but as soon as I want to spend he takes it as his cue to go all-in and suddenly we are both spending and no closer to our shared goal.

With alcohol though, we have particular triggers. It’s as if you took the game of LIFE and made it into a drinking game. Rough day at work? DRINK! First day of spring? DRINK! Zoom call with friends? DRINK! But when you don’t have a plan aside from the very vague, “we’re not drinking right now,” cracking open a bottle of wine doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. So we crack open a bottle of wine and then a couple of days later we’re drinking two bottles…We’re stuck inside our old pattern again. So making a concrete goal and determining that we want to make it to a year made sense. It’s not open-ended so it’s harder to give in.

I will admit that quitting alcohol was not the only goal. Alcohol is also ridiculously expensive. In our youth we could drink whatever $5 special landed into our little hands but as you get older your tastes generally swing to more expensive brands. Our go-to wine was a regional wine that was on the low-end at $17 and even drinking one of these a night is a $119 a week. Where we live in Canada, there is no decent-tasting “two buck chuck” so you are looking at $400 a month. $400 that could be better spent somewhere else.

The other thing that really convinced me to give a long period of temperance a go is my health. I have often given up alcohol, done a lot of stretching, exercise & meditation, and made sure I my diet was well constructed. But I’ve never done all three at the same time. So I wanted to see if it would improve my mobility if I combined all of the healthy habits. As much as I never wanted to admit it: alcohol increases my spasticity & makes my balance worse. Not just in the “ha ha I am tipsy and can’t walk a straight line” way but in a way that lasts for days even after I’ve not had a drink for awhile. So that was my primary motivator.

Finally, I just didn’t want the kids seeing us drink everyday. Mr.Tucker and I have a saying and it’s, “we’re not moderation kind of people.” I can’t tell you how many times I have turned down “just one drink” at parties because I am driving. I know myself and I can’t just have one drink. It’s much easier for me to stay sober. So while I don’t want to make it sound like we were hammered every night (we weren’t) we did drink most nights of the week. Now that the kids are entering their tween years it seems even more pressing to model spending our evenings doing other things besides drinking (and spending time online but that’s another post).

So how has it gone? Pretty well, actually. We are two months in and neither of us think about it too much. Christmas was a bit difficult because of old habits but it helped that we weren’t hosting a large dinner this year. Being in a pandemic year helped a bit in that respect. For me the difficulty will lie in when the first really warm day of spring happens and when we open the pool this summer. I also feel like it will be easier by that time as well with 6 months behind us.

It helps that we are doing this for myriad reasons: health, money, parenting and life goals. When you look at the choice objectively it makes a lot of sense for our life to make this one change. I will say though, both Mr. Tucker and I – while constant drinkers – aren’t alcoholics. Obviously I don’t want to suggest that quitting alcohol is in any way easy if you have an addiction. If you do, please seek out professional help instead of trying to quit on your own. I know one person who passed away from complications due to alcohol addiction and it is a real, dangerous way to quit. Call your doctor or check out aa.org for more info.