It’s true. When you have a child, you do see the future in his eyes. But what is that future? What do I envision it to be? For sure, it’s a precarious mix of Fear and Hope. I’ve hinted towards this when I discussed the Beautiful People Quandary. The thought that my own child might join the legions of a group in which I was never allowed access does give me the heebie-jeebies. On the one hand, of COURSE I would love my son to be a Beautiful Person simply because I never got to be a Beautiful Person. On the other hand, I know from experience that NOT being Beautiful made me the person I am today - I was never that little girl that people fawned over and that probably affected me. In some good ways, at least, since I always made sure to get good grades in school as I had been pegged the “smart one” early on. Although, maybe the jury is still out on that validity of that.......
AnyWAY..... Beautiful or Not, it IS probable that my son will not have to struggle much financially if our Living Situation continues on course. For sure, he will never fondly remember HIS first pair of Much Lusted After Nikes (white with a red swoosh...sigh). Nor will he hoard the precious box they came in (am I the only one who STILL has a hard time throwing away a shoe box?) How do you raise an empathetic, well-adjusted child in this day and age?
These thoughts weigh heavily on my mind. Yes, ME - the same one who bought Ridiculous Shoes for her baby son, who has a strong predilection for Gymboree and who can’t resist buying book after book for him. However, I bought the shoes for ME because I seriously doubt that Arun really enjoys them nearly as I much as I do. And I probably bought the books for ME, as well, since he can't read. Yeah, yeah, he probably doesn't appreciate the cute monkey-themed Gymboree outfit, either. However, I appreciate the fact that I can buy those things for him. I appreciate the fact that I can chauffeur him around in the Ridiculous Car in his Ridiculous Carseat. I appreciate the fact that our TV is so Ridiculous that I have to be careful how close Arun gets to it - I actually watch LESS TV because I don’t want him just randomly exposed to it. The point is that I DON’T take all these things for granted because it wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t have this lifestyle. X and I come from pretty humble backgrounds - he being from a developing country and I having grown up in pitshit teeny Kansas towns. Even though we both never wanted for much and never went hungry, we HAVE seen poverty up close in our surroundings. India? Well, Duh, you say. But Kansas, you ask? Actually, I went to grade school in one of the poorest counties in Kansas. I grew up seeing kids with nothing. While the word “poverty” wasn’t a part of my grade school vernacular, I knew enough to realize that my friend K didn’t have it so good because she had no pillow and no sheets on her bed. No grass in her yard and peeling plaster in her house. Not many toys, for sure. And she wasn’t my only friend like this and certainly, not my only classmate in this situation. Furthermore, our town was so small, there was no class distinction - there just weren’t enough people. The one rich kid would have been playing by herself. The rest of us were pretty middle-class and then, there were a lot of poor kids as well. We all played together because there wasn’t much choice. Or maybe, we just didn’t know better.
So, while X and I are very aware that our life is pretty damned good right now, we are also equally aware that things could turn. No, we don’t live paycheck to paycheck and actually have no debt save for the house and car, but sometimes, Life Happens and we are acutely cognizant of that fact. We comfort ourselves knowing that it wouldn’t kill us to go back to watching The Sopranos on a 27 inch television. We know, from experience, having a big TV and fancy car are perks - not necessities.
So, how do X and I ensure our son grows into a empathetic world citizen? I don’t think it is as simple as not buying him a $25 pair of baby shoes. And yes, I suspect it comes down to looking in the mirror. The time is coming where it won't be enough for X and I to just cut checks in the name of Charity - we will need to put our money where our mouths are and actually DO something, for a change.
However, this question gets even bigger in this day and age of ensuring that “no kid ever feels bad” -- how do you raise a kid with humility? I mentioned earlier this week that I had read Generation Me by Jean Twenge over the weekend. I had been thinking for some time about the issue of kids being so self-centered these days - when I saw the book laying on our coffee table it was like I had hit a mental jackpot. I quickly stole the book from X and promptly inhaled it. The book covers the issue of why kids are so self-centered today and why this whole exercise of the boosting childrens' self-esteem has failed. For example, schools are having awards programs where EVERY kid gets an award. One of the gals I walk with used to be a teacher and when we discussed this issue, she related how at her school’s awards programs she had to give EVERY child 3 awards, even if it was for something like “Greatest Smile”. Schools are cutting things like dodge ball because of the competition. Schools are hesitant to publish honor rolls because the kids that don’t make it get their feelings hurt - which is SAD because things like awards that are EARNED give incentive for someone to strive towards something better. Why work hard if you know you are going to get an award anyway? I know that having an honor roll sure as hell made ME work harder in school.
So, what do I REALLY want for my son? Choices. And I’d like him to be knowledgeable AND conscientious enough to make the right ones. I realize that with our particular Living Situation as it is now, I will have to make extra efforts to ensure that he doesn't grow up taking his life for granted and that he is the sort of person who is considerate of others - regardless of THEIR Living Situation. And most importantly, in the end, the Very End, I’d like my son to know that it doesn’t really matter what sort of shoes you wear.