Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jone-zing with the Jones’

(Originally posted on November 15, 2011 by cjsparkle)

How to “keep up with the jones” on one income? Should you even try too?


The comparative game, can you top this game, is for people with time and no sensible self-esteem. You don’t need the stress, you don’t need the stuff.

I talk A LOT in my blognations about eco approaches and freedom from stuff.

Maximize the minimum! That is my motto.

Now, for all of the parents out there, I have an 11 year old girl, and a 7 year old girl. I know the “but mom she has that, she can do that” blah de de blah blah blah. Where I have been fortunate, is I nipped that comparative early with my kids. I very rarely hear this now out of them.

I have friends, and see parents all over who are faced with this, and really there is a simple albeit sometimes upsetting method to “fix” this. I think it helps perspectivize the parents as well. We are so wrapped up in our day to day and presumably our peers, like-minded, and like valued/money’d people. We see the glow of above, but many times miss the realization of the below. Sometimes working and living submersed in any environment we lose sight of what is around us; above and below. Sometime seeing through the eyes of another, from an objective seat really gives insight in to the importance of what we value.

I live in a very urban area. There is vast distinction between the have and the have nots. Now I am throughly against the blanket “utopia” methodology which throughout the course of time from philosophers, Plato to Sir Thomas More, to John Rawls, to Robert Nowzick, has been determined is it is highly improbable. Even in political setups stemming from this equalized approach, i.e. socialism, fascism, and communism, there are still those at the top and those repressed. Genetics also plays a part on the individual’s capacity for development and success. blanketed utopia's don’t work. DUH. It sounds all good on paper, and lovey, and they show you photos of starving children to tug on the heart-strings of getting you to vote for a side who will “help these people” (who really, many, are victims of their own doing and lack of, in countries other than 3rd world), versus those who think the individual can accomplish anything and should be able to keep the gains they make of it.

So, (*tosses the soapbox*) after the above rant I should reiterate my credentials. I am a single mother. This means 1 income only. I had my first child at 17. I am 28 now and have worked my behind off. I have lived in hellish places, gone with out, lived in serious debt, and gone with many a sleepless night, but I do know that I put myself and my kids in this situation, and that guilt drives me everyday to work hard to get them up and out of where I put them by my own selfishness and immaturity, once upon a time.  I take responsibility for what I have done, seemingly today, a lost art.

So, I got to thinking one night while I was sitting on the back porch of a flat I rented in a bad area of town, how did I get so far down? Looking across the street, I saw a few kids playing outside, dirty and half clothed, there was a stove on their front porch, loud people drinking beer, and a van with a cord running from the van to the inside of the house. I thought, these poor kids are barely clothed, playing with a deflated ball. They haven’t a care in the world, still. They were laughing and playing. My kids room alone could have amused them probably for an eternity, but mine were “bored.”

One day, I had one of the little neighborhood girls over for the afternoon. She was amazed at all of the colors on her plate when I gave her lunch. My youngest was a baby and was asleep; my oldest asked her what she meant, it was just apples and peanut butter, cheese and lunchmeat cut in shapes, orange juice, and a cookie. The little girl went on to explain that she eats cornstarch cookies and water when she is hungry. Sometimes Popeye’s when momma gets paid. Jolie was baffled, I nearly burst in to tears. Everytime she came over after that I gave her at least an orange juice and a snack. I know people right here would say (but that is against what you said above in sharing with the have nots, and she would just come over more to take advantage of the food) yes, maybe she came over just to eat, yes I was sharing my extra with a child with less- but she was a child and I by definition was also a “have not”. She didn’t pick to what she was born to, and she should not have to as a juvenile be responsible for her parents poor choices.

Over the course of time living there, there were many more occurences, where I saw a change in my daughter. She was beginning to realize not all people lived like her. She was able to witness what POOR was. What hungry looked like. What having no toys and dirty, holed clothes really was. She began to give, she wanted to give her toys that she was done with to her sister, and to other kids. We sat down and cleaned out her room, when we moved from there she took a few of her nicer shirts that no longer fit her, packaged them in a gift bag, and brought them over to her playmate and said thank you for playing with me over the past few years and so you can remember the fun we had. The girl’s mother was baffled at a gift for moving away, but pleased and very grateful for the gesture. The little girl hugged her.

Sometimes life brings you situations, what you do with them contribute to the lessons you get from them.

So, how do I counter the varying class system and the afluenzic bug to Jones with the Jones’? Especially now that, although still near the bottom of the food chain, we are way better off than most.  To this day, my kids and I give what extra we have, albeit not much, to toys for tots, food pantries, and the like and they although sometimes they wish they could have the newest and the best, they are grateful for what they do have as they have SEEN those with out. Take your kids to a homeless shelter, a battered woman’s and children’s center, a children’s home for orphaned or abandoned children, a soup kitchen. Volunteer with them at any of the following. Poverty is a vicious circle, and the further individuals and likewise, generations, become stuck in it the harder the change in mentality is to get out of it. Sometimes, many of these children just want a friend, and like the boys and girls club, sometimes that friend can prove to be a good mentor. And sometimes with that cut-above mentor there lies a successful story. We have all heard about them.

In the end, it does not matter how much money you have, how much stuff you have, what matters is what you do with it all. The gratification of giving and donating should come with in, not for philanthropic notoriety. Once you are dead, your stuff doesn’t matter, but your memory remains. How do you want to be remembered?

A Tip for Parents,

A child is never too young to be a part of the big world.  Volunteering your time, exposing your children to the goodness of the heart and actions speaking louder than words will have benefits for the rest of their lives and anothers. 

As stated above, great places looking for volunteers of all ages can be found in and near majority of cities.  Good places to start and get the whole family involved are soup kitchens, co-ops and crop-share exchanges, shelters, and boys and grils clubs.

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