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Teaching Children the Sad Facts of Life

Updated on April 23, 2012

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.

Just Venting

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.

What Would You Do

How do you think you would handle the situation?

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Thank you for visiting. Please vote according to your thoughts, and leave any comment you have. I welcome all! Thanks!

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    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 4 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      Algarview - Thank you for reading and commenting &voting. I didn't see your comment earlier. As you know, I've been off of HP for awhile and am just starting again. Thanks again!

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, Breathe, unfortunatelly these are the days we live in, people care more about stuff than each other, many times, I believe, stuff and toys and whatever are the replacement for hugs and kiss. I agree with you it's best to have bills paid, food on the table, health and love. I think that hugging, loving and kissing them and, finally, trying to explain the facts straight forward, no sugarcoat, is the way to go. Well done. Great hub. Voted up and thanks for SHARING! Have a great day!

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      Thank you, Wilderness, for your insightful response. You're right - the kids love when parents interact - whether jumping on the trampoline, chalking or doing a project.

      Warmest regards~

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Unkind words are a fact of life from children. Often unintentional, but they still hurt. Talk and love would seem to be the order of the day here.

      In this specific case (boring house) I would also say that you can (and apparently are) giving your child far more than another Wii game, scooter or bicycle. You are giving them yourself and children appreciate that far, far more than toys. They may or may not recognize it now, but they absolutely will down the road.

      You might also consider turning your house into more of a neighborhood playground for the children around. Mom and Dad can participate, and other children will recognize this as well. Play games with them. Invite a friend or two over to help build a birdhouse. Turn your home into a mini cub scouts for neighborhood children with projects and fun activities. Backyard campouts, cook s'mores or hotdogs over a "campfire" in a old barbecue, a family and friends game of croquet. Acquaint your children and their friends to fun the old way, without expensive toys but with people and parents.

      Take two or three to a park and play frisbee with them, or take them swimming. Go fishing with the kids. Fly kits with them. Draw on the driveway with chalk, doing some yourself.

      In all these - Mom or Dad participates, and the kids are active, not sitting in front of a TV or game. You can become the "Mom" for the whole neighborhood if you want to and will put out the effort. And it won't cost much, either.

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 6 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      What encouraging and kind words, Duchess. Thank you for reading and commenting! :) Warmest regards~

    • DuchessDuCaffeine profile image

      DuchessDuCaffeine 6 years ago from United States of America

      I chose 'Other' because you didn't give the choice of doing precisely what you did for your sons. It's not enough to hug them, and love them, and prophesy better days ahead. Children need action when their spirits are hurt. Reassurance of course, but straight talk and realism (geared appropriately for age and incident)are what got my boys and I through precisely what you described. That, and LOADS of humor! What amazing men your sons will be with such a wise mom and a rich childhood to bank on :)

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 6 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      JClose - I, too, am a fan of Facts of Life! :)Thank you for reading, commenting & suggestions. I believe completely in guiding our children to pause and think, "What is really behind those words/actions?" Thanks again for sharing!

      Duggers - What a wonderful way to growup! Thank you for reading my hub and commenting! :)

      Warmest regards~

    • dugger62 profile image

      Deborah Dugger 6 years ago from Colorado

      I know I will probably sound like an old foggy, but I am not YET lol. Any way when I was growing up I lived in the country and my toys as a child was a pond in the woods or climbing trees, a ditch with tadpoles, or playing softball with my sisters, or a swing set, or riding a donkey that bucked all the time. At night I would read, or play a game or watch TV with 2 channels to choose from then. As a parent we always want to protect our children from being hurt by others. All you can do is give your children that precious love. Show and tell them that love is much more important than owning any thing in the world.

    • JLClose profile image

      JLClose 6 years ago from OreGONE

      You had me at "The Facts of Life"! Loved that show.

      It's always hard for a parent to deal with unkind words aimed at their child, coming from other children. I find it best to make sure my daughter knows that anyone who has a harsh or rude word to say is probably unhappy or is having a bad day, and that it is not a reflection upon her whatsoever. I encourage her to brush it off and continue to be the kind, loving girl she is. She is only 4, so whether this tactic works, only time will tell...

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      The story of the TV remains as a fond memory for me and I remember that family even today though they have all scattered.

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 6 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      Cat - Thank you for reading & your encouraging words. I do believe my kids are well-rounded. Even when we have surplus, we do not "over-indulge". Thank you again!

      Pixie - Thank you for reading, voting & your encouragement! :)

      Dave - You brought a valid point to the table - "Keeping up with the Jones's" -- I think I'll teach my kids about this mentality, as well as share your story about the tv. Sounds like the family with the tv was a kind,thoughtful family. Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

      Momma o 5 -- thanks for dropping by and reading my hub & commenting.

      Warmest regards to all!

    • profile image

      momma o 5 6 years ago

      I would do what the writer is going to do. Role play with my kids and try to help them be prepared to do the right thing in all situations. Especially the tough, hurtful ones.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      breathe2travel: Nicely done. Those who have more than others, often like to rub it in to make themselves feel better and more important than others. 'keeping up with the Jonses" has been a life long problem for every kid, and their parents. If it were me I would express to my child that posessions mean nothing, and that true friendship is not based upon what one has or does not have. I remember when I was a kid, TV was a relatively new thing. Only one family in our neighborhood had one. The parents of that lucky kid who was fortunate to have it, invited all the kids over to watch, and each kid had a turn to choose what was watched daily.

    • Pixienot profile image

      Pixienot 6 years ago from Clarksville, Indiana

      Dear Breathe,

      I believe you prayed for wisdom and from your description of actions you are going to take, I think you have received it. More power to you. Retaliation is never a good road to take. Hurrah for you!!

      Voted up and awesome

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I"m always sorry when a child's enthusiasm has to be dampened this way. Unfortunately, it is a fact that most kids place way to much importance on material things. They are often overscheduled with activities and are clueless with imaginative free play. There are kids out there who know how to adapt w/o being bored, rude, and insensitive. They learn it from parents of the same mindset, and it is snobbery. We had similar issues, and we would have loved to have found a family like yours! My daughter is in HS now and has wonderful, thoughtful friends who love her for who she is and not for what she has. I love how you've used the analogy of manure (it stinks) and how it will fertilize his heart. He will definitely learn more compassion from his hurt because you are teaching him how. Way to go, Mom.