As I am walking the dog this morning pondering our financial state, it was one of the few times I was able to see the benefits of being “financially challenged”. We are not poor by any stretch but things have been tight for a few years. My husband is an apprentice and I’ve never been in a position to make loads of coin. I’m not high powered executive material.
I started thinking about what we’ve had to do in order to make ends meet. Over the years, I’ve dragged my kids in to fields to gather field stone for the garden. I’ve called my husband very excited about piles of patio stones on the side of the road. Heck, my daughter’s chest of drawers came off the side of the road. I buy things on sale. I comb Value Village. I cruise Goodwill. These things never would have happened a few years ago.
I was raised upper middle class. Everything for my father was about how it looked, how much it cost and what name was attached to this. It gave me a superiority complex which was not a nice thing. I thought I was better than everyone else because my family could afford these “things”. What we never had was time together. We never had movie night. We never went to the park. We never went on hikes or walks by the lake. Things that have been borne by our financial situation. We’ve had to improvise in order to spend quality time together. Some of the things we have experienced might never have happened if we were more financially affluent. We might be running around to all kinds of activities. We might be trying to keep up with the Jones rather than each other.
By being honest with our kids about our financial situation, they are learning some valuable lessons. They are learning that important things in life are not measured by how much they cost. They are learning not to judge people by what they wear or drive. Believe me, my husband has driven some doozies. They are learning to think outside the box in order to achieve things that they want. They’ve watched us scavenge. They’ve helped us scavenge. They’ve watched their father repair the foundation to the house, redo the entire house roof himself, dig out a driveway extension, build garden beds and renovate the basement all by himself. That is the short list. They’ve watched their mother shop frugally, bake endlessly, recyle tirelessly and donate constantly.
I’m hoping that they are learning the lessons far faster than I did. Learning to be independant. Learning not to judge. Learning not to value things over people. Learning to cherish time with each other. Learning that we are here to help one another.
My Uncle Alan, ironically my dad’s older brother, has done a lot for me in this life lesson thing. The life I live now is far more like him than my dad. I sent him and my aunt a thank you letter a couple of years ago. I wanted them to know what kind of impact they’ve had on my life and in turn my children. My aunt called me and sounded quite choked up so I know they were suprised and appreciative. That wasn’t the goal but it was nice none the less.
So maybe the point of all of this is that money is not everything. Would I like to do more for my kids ? Yes. When Thomas was little I spent thousands trying to fix his skin. Since then, I’ve spent thousands again trying to help with his Aspergers and other issues. I’d love to be able to afford tutoring and other things like that. Can I afford a new car ? No. Can I buy expensive clothes ? No. Do I care ? No. My kids have lived a life far richer than what money can buy. They’ve learned that they are valued. That they are important. That they are worth spending time with. The value on that – priceless.