Saturday, November 22, 2008
A necessary twist to an old story.
With the economic difficulties we all face right now, I'm guessing there are a lot more nervous, stressed out parents out there than there were last year. As I post this, many could already be unemployed. And maybe like me, they also worry that they may not be able to send their kids to college.
Yet some may still be wondering whether they are getting the axe before Christmas or after it. All I am certain is that there’s a lot of fear out there. And scared parents mean scared kids.
This, I think, is inevitable even if you are the best parent on the planet - and most of us aren’t. I too grew up in a household where the economic cycles undermined our stability and where my father’s actions and mood were dictated by our economic situation. I therefore, have a good memory of how hard this can be on children. And I want nothing but to isolate my kids from all these.
However, this is easier said than done, of course, since I’m just as prone (maybe more, as i am a single parent) to becoming grumpy and irritable when I’m worried as anyone else.
But, should my kids know about this bad stuff? Should I let them know about the darker scenario ahead of us? Is it necessary that they understand that we’re spending less money on the holidays, and that we might be facing hard times that will last a while?
Economics notwithstanding, I cannot tell my kids to eat less, dream less, want less. As a mother I know in a way that I help create my children's expectations - expectations that I will no longer be able to fulfill.
I plead guilty of telling them that a normal existence means new clothes every Christmas and birthdays, a cell phone, shopping as a hobby, buying what you want at the grocery store. But now, I'm going to need not just to tell them that those things have to shift, but to work on making sure that they understand that these shifts aren’t necessarily bad.
My kids live by the stories they were told. Yeah sure, they have learned that affluence is incredibly important, that their future was about money, and that security comes in the form of wealth. I can’t prevent them from all the hardships that are probably coming their way, but what I can do is shift the stories they learn - they should learn that being poor is normal, and that it doesn’t have to prevent people from being happy.
They can learn that their family unit, extended or nuclear is working together in the face of difficulties. That they should understand that their participation in this project is part of what is holding our family together and to enable them to keep going.
I hope they can draw strength and pride from these experiences, from their sacrifices and their participation, even if they are scared and angry, even if they are sometimes.
But I know I have to start telling them different story. I am thinking up new roles for my kids right now, or the old ones will drag them down.