Teaching Children the Sad Facts of Life
Facts of Life Theme Song
You Take the Good, You Take the Bad...
Does anyone remember the sitcom, The Facts of Life ? Its theme song is running through my head right now, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life..."
As a parent, we have the joy of teaching our kids so many of life's wonders. And then there's the flipside -- we also have to teach them about the "Bad"... and today, "snobbery" was a lesson that reared its head again in the world of my nine year old.
A long face wore out its welcome earlier tonight. When one of my boys returned from an afternoon of playing with neighborhood kids, his face was clearly supressing emotion. I thought he was simply disappointed because we enforced our "in-the-house-by-dark" rule. After a few minutes, I confronted his gloominess, "What's going on? Why the long face?" He raised his green eyes to mine, "Our house is..." his voice cracked, "boring!" "Did one of your friends tell you that?" My son then named three of his friends, closing with, "But they didn't mean it mean." Ugh.
The snobbery in this neighborhood definitely has trickled to the children (not that all families are like that, some are quite kind). We live in a nice middle-class neighborhood -- with SUVs in just about every garage, and usually three cars for every two drivers in the home. Not our home. We only have one vehicle right now - an older *gasp* van, at that. Not a loaded-down suv with all of the latest and greatest gadgets. Plus, most homes with kids 10 or older have golf carts. One gaming system is not enough for the homes with over-sized flat screen tvs (again, we have older models, the square kind) -- but most homes have Wii, XBox360, trampolines, huge wooden play yards, batting cages...and more. Again, we failed in the excitement factor -- we only have the Wii. Our five kids only have one bicycle and scooter a piece -- not the bicycle, scooter, motorized scooter, rip stick, etc., that their friends each have -- seriously.
Shortly after moving to a new state and buying a home, several of our clients closed their doors. This wasn't the first time we went through a "dry" season. We actually went through six weeks without one cent coming into the house. We had planned to do so much to the house and yard when we moved in, but those funds were used to pay mortgage installments and groceries. Not complaining about that. We were thankful for provision, period. We still haven't fully bounced back, and finances have been tight.TMI? Sorry. Point is, we've struggled a lot these past two years since moving into this neighborhood.
Kids don't understand the fundamentals of life. And it's challenging as a parent to see your kids feel reprucussions from YOUR lack. There are a couple of families that have made our kids feel excluded. We have tried to overlook and make allowances for behavior, believing the best of others. However, when one of the "dads" in the neighborhood is a coach for the local baseball league, and he only chooses one other kid out of his sons' playmates -- EVERY SEASON -- your kids notice. This same family tells my son that one of their kids cannot play because he is grounded. Later the same afternoon, another kid is in their yard jumping on their trampoline with their son. UGH. And of course, my son sees it. Repeatedly. What in the world? I mean, really.
Anywhooo... I thought that once you were past high school, this stuff stopped. And when we were doing financially well, we were never snobby to people. We always have reached out to others. I am praying for wisdom on how to handle the situation.
Putting It In Perspective
I am thankful for my home (it is beautiful, I just haven't been able to decorate it the way I'd like to yet). Today, I sat in the jacuzzi in the back yard with my two younger sons. We played and watched my husband work on the garden. My bills are paid. We have groceries on the table. Kids are in extracurricular activities. I don't have to put my kids in daycare (we run our business from home). There is much cause to give thanks. But to a nine-year old, who sees everyone else in his neighborhood have so much more, and then is told his home is boring how do you "deal" with that? He cried. His friends basically told him they don't like being at his house. That makes my heart break... because his obviously is hurt.
We have put the kids down for the night already. But, I believe tomorrow I will talk to my son again. He is a thankful child. He knows about the tragedy in Japan, and other world events. He is aware of children going to bed hungry each night, and others who suffer abuse. But those are only perceived abstractly -- while the words from his friends happened in his young, very real, everyday world. And they stung.
Applying the Lesson
I am not sure if "snobbery" is the proper term to describe what my son experienced today. This was not the first time, and I am sure it will not be the last, that I have had to "coach" one of my children through a hurt.
I usually encourage my children to make sure they never purposely do or say anything that would give opportunity for another person to feel the same sadness or hurt. I challenge them to take this as a lesson in what not to do or say. Tomorrow, I will "role play" with my son (and probably my six-year old and eleven-year old) -- and have them play a child bored at another's home, a child hearing a friend say another friend's home is boring, and be the child targeted in the gossip. How will they handle it? What will they say to discourage "ugly" remarks?
Bottom line -- I want my kids to recognize that when someone downplays another person's home and hospitality they are simply serving - manure. And, having just fertilized our garden with manure, my kids understand that although it stinks, when applied correctly, it actually brings life. Hopefully, after tomorrow's talk, that's just what we'll do with this situation -- fertilize the soil of my kids' hearts.