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Fancy Cheese
My middle son was home from college one weekend. It was my youngest son’s birthday, and older brother wanted to be there. He also wanted to talk over some plans with me, so he tagged along as I ran errands, including a trip to the grocery. I was supposed to get some food for the next day’s birthday party.

My wife wanted a fruit and cheese plate so the list included “fancy cheese.” My son chuckled as we picked out several six-ounce packages of cheese from the deli section. As I eyed him he said, “You know, I never realized how differently you look at buying groceries when you have to spend your own money.” He has an apartment off campus, not a dormitory room. That means he feeds himself, rather than eating at the cafeteria.

He then told me how he stretched his food budget at college. He bought non-perishables – like toilet paper or dishwasher detergent – in large quantities, because the price per unit was lower. He eschewed name brands for lower price house brands. He limited purchases of ready-to-eat food in favor of raw ingredients to save money. As for cheese? That he got in large bricks of lower-cost cheese, like Colby. Pre-sliced cheese cost too much to offset its minimal convenience.

On My Own

I pointed out that none of this – except perhaps the emphasis on the absolute lowest cost options – was much different from what his mother and I already did. He agreed. He even said that he splurged now and then, just as I was doing with the deli cheese,  but added, “I just never really understood why you did it until I was on my own.”

I see his point. I did not appreciate the virtue of bulk cheese or store-brand goods until I was on my own, living in an efficiency apartment at college. Just as my wife and I had worked to educate our sons about budgeting and managing their lives, my parents had worked to educate me. As with him, I never quite appreciated their lessons until I – rather than they – had to exercise them.

We gave our sons a solid foundation. We showed them the importance of industry, self-discipline and self-reliance. We taught them to trust God and live a Christian life. And yet, no matter how well we prepare our children, they are still a work in progress when they leave their home and go off on their own. Parents can – and must – help ready them for the “real world.” But for fledglings to leave the nest they must fly on their own wings, not their parents’ wings.

Yes, as they wobble into the air you worry that they may fall. But oh how glorious when they find their balance and soar into the sky.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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