For most people, moving always seems to shine a spotlight on the fact that you have too. much. stuff. It seems even more so this time as we not only move farther but also downsize our space. Lots of lists and “piles” are being made – donations, a dreaded garage sale, Craigslist, a friend newly single and starting over – all recipients of our excess. Evidence that we are, almost embarrassingly, blessed.
There is a delicate, and sometimes elusive, balance between being grateful for what you have and feeling guilty for having so much in the first place. Generally, I think if you are generous with your over-abundance, then it is okay, even positive. But there is always something that feels not quite right about that.
I like to tell myself we are raising M to know money does not equate to happiness, nor does it define a person or success. I drag her to various events and we participate in programs that focus on giving to the less fortunate, hoping she’ll recognize how lucky she is and that there are a lot of good people out there we should help because we are among the fortunate and we can. Her daily life includes responsibilities that contribute to our family as a whole, including, but not limited to, feeding the pets, emptying the dishwasher, picking up her room at the end of each day, helping fold laundry and cleaning her bathroom weekly. A child having responsibility seems like common sense to me but I am consistently shocked at how few, if any, responsibilities other children have. I would have thought this would foster some realization in her that you are not just handed the world on a platter, you have to contribute your own share. Or that maybe the sense of entitlement many kids have would be, at the very least, stifled a little (I wasn’t hoping for miracles, we do live in America after all).
But no, her sense of entitlement is quite healthy.
However, as I’m digging through all of our things, trying to pare down our belongings into a quantity that is at least marginally reasonable, I don’t really know why I’m so surprised. The fact is, Miss M has never had to go without anything. Granted, I’ve watched with abject horror as some parents have bought their children, even M’s age, things that most adults don’t have, and consoled myself that we would never do that. But I can’t think of anything she’s ever really wanted she did not eventually receive. Given the size of our families, what she receives at Christmas alone is, quite frankly, offensive. Sure, there has been the thing here and there we either could not, or refused to, afford – but the time period in which we really couldn’t afford extras, she was too young to remember and too young to realize she was going without.
Significantly though, I think we, the parents, have become just as spoiled, if not more so. In the two years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve never taken for granted that there is a pool in my backyard, as that still seems surreal, and I don’t have any desire, nor am I willing, to spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, etc. – but I don’t do without other things I want. If we want to go out to eat for dinner, we do. If I want to buy M some cute outfit I randomly find, or I decide she needs another swimsuit for the summer because one will be worn out by July, I get it. If there is a movie we want to see, we see it. But the fact is, these are luxuries – and they are luxuries I take for granted.
As I’ve admitted, we are moving with only potential employment prospects, taking our savings and retirement with us. The number of things we consider ‘luxuries’ is about to expand in direct proportion to the decrease in the number of things we consider ‘necessities.’ I may mock myself for this later if we end up in financial disaster, but I think we will benefit greatly from the change in perspective that is inevitably about to occur. Our meals will be at home, with a carefully planned menu. Our entertainment will have to be creative and cheap, if not free. Parts of that will be easy as we’re outdoorsy – and it’s Boulder, after all. But a suddenly strict budget is not going to be much easier, and may be altogether harder, for the adults in the house. When M wants to do something, third-party approval has always been required, either by acquiescing, or paying for it, or both. But we haven’t answered to anyone in years, and as I recall, a strict budget wields its authority in dictatorial fashion. We’re about to get reminded of the difference between ‘necessities’ and ‘luxuries’ and to what we are actually ‘entitled.’ I think that’s a good thing.