My parents grew up poor. Rationing food, wearing hand-me-downs, and walking to school in broken shoes poor. On Christmas Day, the well-off kids would show off their fancy toys and my parents, ashamed, would hide their knick-knacks and knock-off toys for fear of being teased.
To this day, my mom (now well-off), still hoards plastic bags from the grocery store to re-use in the home. She clips coupons and visits five different stores to find the best deal. She keeps clothing from twenty years ago because, who knows, she might wear it one day.
My father used to collect any money he could to buy a candy bar at the store. Years later, one of my earliest memories is stopping at a gas station to buy a Snickers bar, simply because he could. We snacked on our bars at 11 o’clock at night (this was the 80’s, people, there was less judgment around child-rearing) and listened to music on an 8-track player.
Because my parents grew up poor, they never wanted my brother and I to grow up wanting for anything. We lived in a working class suburb in my early childhood and my parents scrapped together jobs – delivering pizzas, working overnight at a factory, serving as senior home aides – to make money until they could obtain their professional licenses and move into the middle class.
Now that I have kids, my parents spoil them as well. My kids have too many things and we do our best to dwindle down the piles, to explain to our kids why they can’t buy everything, to have them understand that there are children out there who don’t have the opportunity to own allofthethings – ultimately, to have them understand that things are just things, and there is no end to the hedonic treadmill.
In my experience, it’s easier for someone who comes from modest means to understand why they can’t have everything, and to be grateful for what they do have. I wonder how I will teach my children, who are being raised in a bubble, the art of gratitude, grace, modesty.