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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

All That Glitters Isn't Gold...

I grew up in a poor humble household.

My mom was a single parent and worked six days a week for most of my childhood. She had to. We (my mom, my two brothers, and my sister and I) lived in a 2 bedroom townhouse for almost 14 years. That tiny condo was packed, but it was something that my mom gave her blood, sweat, and tears to own. We weren't dirt poor, but in order to survive my mom had to adhere to very tight budget.

There was very little room for luxury when I was growing up.

Oh, I have so many memories about my childhood and the struggles our family faced! I could devote a whole new blog site about those stories. But with as many stories I have, there is one memory in particular that stands out to me....

One day when I was about Kevin's age, I went to the corner store with my mom so she could buy last minute stuff to make adobo. We needed lemons. However, I really wanted some candy so I think I started whining begging my mom to buy me some.

Well, the problem was my mom didn't have enough money.

She quietly told me that she didn't have cash to buy both the lemons and my candy. I even remember her explaining to me that the adobo wouldn't taste as good without the lemons. Well, I was irrational (being a kid will do that to ya) and reasoning didn't work with me. I must have caused a quite a fuss looked really cute (lol!) because my mom was going to skip buying lemons so she could buy me candy.

Oh, the things mothers do for their daughters!

The store owner overheard my mom trying to calm me down. Apparently, he was taken aback by the mini-sacrifice my mother was willing to make. He told my mom that I could have the candy as a gift and he gave her the lemons for free. My mom was so touched by his unexpected generosity that she cried on the way home. She repeatedly told me that I should be thankful for each small blessing God gave us. That was nearly 20 years ago and I will never forget the lesson that day taught me. Times were tough when I was growing up, but we made it without any handouts from anyone. I learned a lot watching our family struggle.

So, where am I going with this?

I grew up appreciating the simple things in life -- a roof over my head, warm food on the table, clothes on my back, a car that runs, HEALTH INSURANCE, and *sometimes* having a sensible head on healthy shoulders. ;) I wanted nice things when I was a kid, but in my world, it was about as attainable as touching the stars in the sky.

Money didn't grow on trees and I knew that at a very early age.

As I got older, I learned quickly that we come from a consumer-driven society. As such, we've been programed to believe that accumulation of material things equals happiness. I was never raised to "keep up with the Joneses" and I honestly didn't know much about what it meant to want the "finer things in life" until I met John. He came from a more privileged family than mine so he was the one that schooled me on "all things bougie".

I miss not knowing any better.

Oh, how I wish a person's worth wasn't defined by the type of door they shut behind them, the clothes on their back, the car they drive, or the kind of purse/wallet they carry their receipts in! ;-) It's all about the Benjamins these days.

But to be brutally honest, I'm guilty as charged, too!

I feel like sh*t because I don't always have the finer things in life. I hate that about myself especially since I came from such poor humble beginnings!!! Sometimes, I'm blinded by a silly, but insatiable hunger to accumulate shit that I/we really don't need. (Damn you for ripping away my naivety, John!) Things that I once thought to be unachievable are do-able, but at what cost? What am I teaching my children by wanting to shower them with expensive crap?

What the hell is the point of *thinking* that my kids will be judged if they don't have the newest...blah blah blah yackety schmackety?!

There is a huge part of me that covets nice things for my children because I couldn't have them when I was a kid. I want to give my kids all of the things I couldn't have. I want them to have the "finer things in life". I want them to start school with brand new shoes every year instead of the embarrassing things I had to go though. (I had to start my 6th grade year with my refurbished Reebok Classics from 5th grade!) I most certainly do not want them to experience the crappiness I felt from being "underprivileged".

So, I buy.

And sometimes, I'm tempted buy too much because I think it will make my kids (and everyone around them) happy. I don't buy what little I can actually afford to showboat, but more often than not, I try to provide "sparkly" things for my kids because it gives me the illusion that I'm doing a good job as a their mother. I also feel like we're being judged less that way. Sometimes, it's easier to join the mainstream, ya know? I've been disillusioned to believe that I'm a better mother when I'm able to produce "all that glitters" for my kids.

But the other part of me?

The other part of me KNOWS that my worth (our worth!) isn't defined by how well dressed my kids are or what kind of car I chauffeur them around in. Our family is not part of a pedigree dog show that we MUST win at all costs!

But feels that way. Consumerism is the devil, I tell you.

I feel even guiltier when I succumb to the rat race because I know I don't want to raise my children to be spoiled, self-entitled little twits. So I try VERY hard to fight the temptation to "spend, Spend, SPEND!"---to buy my worth. To be part of the "in crowd". By doing that, I'm putting less value on all of the simple things I treasured when I was growing up. It's almost as if I've betrayed my humble beginnings every time I drool over teeny, tiny Gucci shoes for Niki.

The "old me" would've been thrilled that she even had feet to put them on to begin with!

I want to do right by my kids. So, from now on I'm going to try my best to remember that "all that glitters isn't gold". Having a lot of nice stuff doesn't necessarily make you a better person. Some of the most mean spirited people on the planet are the richest too! I'd rather be humble and genuine than extravagant and fake. I may stumble and fall on occasion (because I'm human and I really want those damn shoes!), but from now on I'm going strive to be the best mother I can possibly be to my children. So, I will try raise them by finding a happy medium between "super bougie" and "super broke". Lol! The formula is still in the making. :)

I just want to be this girl all over again. And, I want my kids to be like her too! Minus the broke-ass hat of course!

1 comment:

  1. My sister and I were raised by a single mom as well. She always worked a full time and part time job. I was often embarrassed by my clothes and shoes, my home-done haircuts and my bag lunches. To say that we had what we NEEDED is true. We had very little that we WANTED though. Throughout my boys' lives, they have always had what they needed. They were taught early on the difference between wants and needs. Of course they had many of the things they wanted too, but only after careful consideration of its worth. We live a very comfortable life but Dean and I still examine need vs. want on almost every purchase. I know there are many things the boys want (including things that many of their friends have) but we can't justify buying it for them. They learned to borrow CDs from the library, wait for what they wanted to go on sale, budget their spending money, and most importantly to SAVE. Teaching children to save money is one of the biggest gifts you can give them. We try to set a good example for our sons - although we can afford it, I don't pamper myself, we drive cars that get great mileage but don't have any bells & whistles, we budget our spending, don't have the "latest" of anything, and we save, save, save. As their college graduations approach, we have given them the best gift of all. They will be starting their working lives debt-free. No student loans, no credit card debt. All of our saving, and foregoing things that really didn't matter allowed us to put them through college instead.