The Cost of Cougar Boots

How Do You Explain to Kids that You Simply Can’t Afford the One Thing They Want?

My childhood revolved around little white envelopes.

There was a little white envelope for the rent, one for the hydro, one for the phone…you get the picture. Each time my dad got his paycheck, money was divvied up between these little envelopes so that bills got paid and everyone got fed.

I grew up completely oblivious of our family financial struggle. My parents did a good job of sheltering my sister and I from knowing that money was scarce. Maybe my childhood friends were in the same boat and no one ever clued in. In those days, toys were whatever I discovered on the ground and my playground was the huge tree in our background. All the neighborhood kids basically lived outdoors until it got dark and your parents shouted at you to get inside. I never felt deprived, or thought other kids were luckier than me.

Then came Cougar boots.

I DESPERATELY wanted Cougar boots. Not only did everyone and their mother have Cougar boots, but it was all in the way you wore them. Laces undone, boot tongue hanging out and tied down… along with the leg warmers, they were the ultimate in cool. And I wanted them badly.

Having an older sister obviously resulted in a closet of hand-me-downs. Having an older sister who couldn’t care less about Cougar boots meant that each year I would go to school wearing a lovely pair of pink knee-high winter boots that would glow in the lineup outside the classroom door. While other kids had to go down the hall struggling to recognize their footwear out of the vast sea of sameness, my boots shone like a brilliant pink beacon from the washroom at the end of the hall.

I begged my parents for Cougar boots. We’re talking “I-promise-to-eat-brussel-sprouts-every-day-for-the-rest-of-my-life” begging. It got me nowhere. “You have a perfectly good pair of boots to wear” or “you’re just going through a phase” was the constant refrain.

Well let me tell you – I wanted those boots for FOUR years. It was four years of despising my parents for not letting me have this ONE THING I so desperately wanted. They didn’t understand. They didn’t care. I was bitter.

But they DID know. I found out (just recently) that my mom saved her money for years trying to get me those boots. But every time she got a little put aside, the roof leaked…and then the next time she almost had enough saved, my dad lost his job….and it was a never-ending battle to keep up with the bills.

Knowing what I do now, I can’t believe she didn’t despise me for my whininess or get angry with my months of pleading. I always believed she didn’t understand – and I’m ashamed now to remember how I acted and my desperate acts of manipulation to try to get her to change her mind. So if you’re reading this mom – yes, I’m apologizing AGAIN – and it will never be enough.

My mother just sent me a pair of Cougar boots for my birthday this year with a note in my card saying “I never forgot”. I sent her back a note in a little white envelope that said “I’ll always remember”.



As well as being a foster parent, Karen Elliott is a web designer and freelance artist who also works for the Yummy Mummy Club as the online editor.

She and her husband live in a small hamlet in rural Ontario with their two biological children and a continual stream of others who pass through on their childhood journey.