What. In. The. Hell. Not quite the question I expected to get from my eleven year old as I conducted my normal post school day interrogation Upon further questioning it came to light that a classmate had asked her if we were poor because she didn’t have any school pictures to bring home like some of the others. If there ever was a time in which I ever wanted to suggest to my child to tell someone to fuck off and mind their own business, this was it. Um…have you seen school pictures lately? Horrendous. Besides, the condition of my checkbook is no business of a fifth grader. Not even my own.
After drying her tears and reassuring her that we are in fact not poor, I felt it the opportune time to inform her that we are not what many would consider rich either. While we are not financially strapped and are able to provide our kids with the things that they need, it takes some planning on our part to be able to give them the things that they want. More importantly I wanted to stress to her that while we may not be monetarily rolling in the dough, we are rich in so many other ways. Ways that she may not understand at this exact moment. Ways that don’t agree with her “cater to me right now” mentality. Ways that maybe some of her friends don’t get to enjoy.
We live in a ninety-year-old house. Not just any old house mind you, Farmer Bob grew up in this house. While it doesn’t have sparkly new fixtures, cable TV and brand new carpet, it has things that are so much better. It has character and memories and an outhouse. We have a fort in the trees and hay in the barn to play hide and seek in. We have open space to play baseball in the yard and plenty of room to get away from each other if we need to. We have food on the table and clothes on our backs. We have fun together, we fight, we argue, we love. We are a family.
Being rich in the monetary sense would be fantastic don’t get me wrong. To not have to worry about how to cover this bill or that bill, to be able to give our kids a few of the things that are wanted whenever desired would be an amazing feeling. The question I have to keep asking myself is would I be willing to sacrifice so many wonderful moments in order to have the financial stability to satisfy what would undoubtedly become insatiable appetites for shit that serves no other purpose than to allow our family to slowly disintegrate into seven separate entities instead of one strong familial unit? The answer to that…HELL NO.
It is never easy to tell our kids no, you don’t need that. As parents we have this primordial desire to provide for them, to satisfy their every desire. We feel as if we are failing them if we can’t serve them everything that they want and need on a silver platter. Maybe we are actually failing them if we do throw all their earthly desires at their feet with no request for repayment. Are we raising a generation of entitled assholes? I hear how kids talk to their parents, my own included. I see the look of fear in a mother’s eyes of what might happen if she says no to that toy, my own included. It scares the shit out of me. Scares me that as parents we allow it. That it seems that we really are raising the kind of adults that we ourselves can’t stand to be around.
What scares me even more is the thought that these kids won’t grow up to appreciate the things that don’t cost a fortune. That they won’t understand that you don’t have to be rich in the financial sense to be rich in so many other ways. That family comes first and the rest of it is just “stuff”. That we have riches that far exceed anything that money can buy. That in fact, some of the best things in life truly are free and can’t be captured in some stupid school picture.