Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pony rides, $4

We had our first “homework free” weekend in a long, long time. It was great. Even with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, which robs us mercilessly and unnecessarily of a precious hour, it was a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.

It didn’t rain. That helped a lot. We drove down to Sacramento and spent time with our friend S, and hung out in his lovely home for a while, sipping coffee and hot chocolate, and then took off for Funderland! It has been there for many years, and shows it, but for a kid M’s age (almost 5) it was perfect: An amusement park for little kids. As we approached the entrance, we saw a corral with ponies, and M spotted a girl her age riding a horse.
“Oh, Mommy – I want to do that!” she declared, her voice full of longing.
It was a fabulous feeling to be able to say “Ok, honey” and feel zero anxiety about how much it might cost.

When I was a kid, money was always tight. Now I understand that my parents lived beyond their means, tried to pretend they had more than they did, and generally played a grand scale game of Keeping Up with the Jones’. But then, as a little kid, I knew that we children were draining the money out of my father’s wallet, and I was made to feel bad every time I grew out of my shoes or clothes. We were often the only kids who didn’t get to have or participate in something that the other kids at school did. We lived in the Bay Area in the 60s – a time of Brady Bunch suburban abundance. My dad taught public high school and had good insurance. But the other dads worked at Hewlett Packard and Lockheed and Intel. My mother sewed most of our clothes and my play clothes were my brother’s hand me downs. Now, there is nothing wrong with the way we lived, it was the way they felt about it and framed it for us kids that sucked so bad. They wasted a huge amount of energy and money pretending, and my mother worried and complained and I was the one she stressed out around, being the girl; lucky me.

I was never going to make my kid feel bad that her feet grew and she needed new shoes. I was never going to put my kid in the position of being the only kid whose parents couldn’t afford to send me on a trip or something that was part of school. My parents should have lived somewhere else, had fewer kids, or bought less crap, but they always said it wasn’t in their control. Just another of the lies that I learned growing up in that disaster of a childhood.

I’ve worked so hard to have a good job, a balanced life, and a healthy relationship to money. I know what it can and cannot buy. I earn it, I save it, and I respect it. When my baby wanted to ride the horse, all I had to say was “which one?” It felt great.

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