In Another Country
Recently, Calvin, my nine-year-old, has been spending a lot of time playing with a kid who lives around the corner. Not around the corner in a house like ours, but in the big house. In the neighborhood for which our street was planned as a convenient abode for the domestic help.
The other day as we were driving home from school, he said to me "I think G's friend who lives two doors down is from another country, because he's always playing that game with the stick that has a net on the end."
"Lacrosse?" I asked.
"Yeah, Lacrosse! That's it!" I tried to keep the laughter out of my voice as I said
"Baby, that's not because he's from another country. It's because he's rich." Calvin thought about that for a minute and then asked tentatively, "Can only rich kids play Lacrosse?"
"No," I replied, beginning to wish I hadn't said anything, "it's just a sport they really only play in private schools." He didn't ask any more questions, and I was left to wonder what he thought about things like money and wealth. Had he not noticed the differences between his friend's house and ours? I know that he must have. But maybe in his mind, those differences were inconsequential, or just proof that they chose to buy a larger house than we did.
When I told this story to Richard, he laughed and said that kid might as well be from another country; the country of money. It was funny, but at the same time I felt a niggling little worry that we were letting bitterness seep in and infect our kids' attitudes about their place in the world. My parents are solidly middle class now, but they both come from poverty and, for good or bad, they passed on some of that poverty mindset to me. Time, experience, and education have remedied most of that, but I'm still aware of how our attitudes about money can spill over into the way we raise our kids.
I would be lying if I said we don't struggle financially. But at the same time, I can honestly say that I believe I live in incredible luxury. If I feel the need to compare what I have to what someone else has, I feel unfairly fortunate. I don't know what it's like to watch my kids go hungry, or to feel helpless when they get sick because I can't get medicine. I don't have to keep them in the house all day because of constant gunfire in the streets. We tuck them into warm beds at night knowing that in the morning we'll send them to a good school where they have every opportunity they need to learn and grow.
All of us are happy and healthy and our house is full of love and laughter and warmth. Bursting at the seams, maybe, but in such a good way. And that's what I want my kids to think about as they figure out how all of that works. We might daydream of things we'd like to have, but I can't really think of a single thing we need.