Thursday, June 04, 2015

On being poor...

Max told me the saddest thing today. Just because he has pocket money for snacks, his friends think we are wealthy and ask him to buy them things. I said, "I hope you corrected them...because snack money for you is about ALL we can afford. We are so very far from rich." (Plus I just worry about him going hungry all day if he doesn't like what they serve for lunch.)

He told me "No way! If I told them we weren't rich, no one would like me. Nobody likes poor people."

I was horrified and deeply sad that he thinks no one would like him if they knew he wasn't wealthy. I told him no one in our town is "wealthy". If we were truly rich, we'd be living somewhere ELSE. (No offense to my fellow town residents. LMAO But if we won the lottery, we'd be moving to a McMansion compound near the shore.)

I just don't know where/how he picked up on this burden of shame society puts on people from lower income brackets. There is nothing wrong with being from a working class family! Sure, we'd all like to be better off, have nicer stuff, and we play the lottery (I never said we were the smartest of smart people. lol) But I come back to the core of the issue. Pocket money. We always make sure Max has a little spending money. School Store day, in particular, is a big deal. Max LOVES buying the little trinkets from the school store once a month. Is it true that hardly any other parents give a buck or two to their kids, just in case? Is Max really the only kid walking around with $2 in his pocket every day?

I know we had issues over this kind of thing in the past. In Kindergarten, we'd give Max just enough change to buy an ice cream at lunch. There was another child who started begging Max for money. That swiftly turned into demands for money, but a teacher overheard one day and called this child's parents in for a discussion about their child extorting money from our boy. They felt really badly and made the boy pay Max back. We were careful to instruct Max that the money we gave him was HIS and he did NOT have to give it to anyone. Nor should he feel like he had to buy things for people. If his little "friends" told him they wouldn't BE his "friends" if he didn't fork over the cash, then that meant they were not his friends to begin with. No true friend takes your money.

Yes, we had to revisit this in first grade. Max was spending his pocket money on friends and coming home sad because he couldn't afford the snacks he wanted. Or the school store items he craved.

I have a feeling this is going to be an on-going battle. He is a people pleaser and loves being the center of attention. The temptation to "buy" his friends is very strong! I fell into the same trap when I was in 7th grade. I was so desperate to be liked, I spent my hard earned babysitting money on gifts or snacks for girls I wished would be friendly toward me (instead of hateful bitches.) *sigh* And no, it didn't work. It never works. You can't buy real friendship.

Then there is that deeper issue. Where DID Max get the impression that being financially restricted (i.e. POOR) was something to hide? To feel shame over? We can't help where the economy has placed us. Heck, we are luckier than many. John makes just enough that I can stay at home with the boys. We are in debt, can't afford real vacations, and are one paycheck away from total disaster, but we limp along and make it work. I never say "don't tell your friends we can't afford to buy you Under Armor or name brand sneakers!" I have no hesitation in saying we do most of our shopping at Walmart. I've never even seen the inside of a Trader Joe's and I have no problem telling people that.

I'm going to have to dig deeper and see if I can figure out where this is coming from.

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