Monday, December 06, 2010

Talking About Money

For over eight years as a single parent, I straddled the fine line between talking too little or too much about finances with J. I was determined that she never felt "poor" in a material sense though I frequently over-compensated with emotional comfort just in case she did. To that end, J has never had (and to her credit, asked for) a lot of anything - clothes, books, toys and more. Instead I took time to do bead work on a plain white tee, embellished a jean jacket with embroidery and sewed on colorful patchwork on her jeans - there was a little bit of me in everything that was J's. 
She has always had enough to be comfortable but not to become and extension of my ego dolled up in designer couture. I pride myself on being economical without being stingy but these measures are completely subjective. My friend or neighbor may have an entirely different view of me than I do of myself. DB for instance thinks I don't give the child nearly enough and that this a tender age - my "frugality" may end up hurting her confidence as she is not able to be as well-heeled as her peers when I have the wherewithal to give her a lot more than I do.
As a compromise, J has come into some spiffy new clothes - I notice that she is happy to have them but coming as late as they have in her childhood, she is not entirely beholden to them. I am staying true to my principle of building in her a sense of style that transcends the dictates of peer pressure and fleeting fashion trends. DB says that I am way too demanding of a child less than ten years old and am pushing her to becoming an outlier. I don't agree with the first part of his observation but when it comes to style, I would love nothing more than for J to find a niche that is exclusively her own and cannot be imitated. If that means becoming an outlier, so be it. As we shift and change to accommodate the other's views, J experiencing the shifting tides too.  
This post was triggered by reading this article about what not to say to your kids about money. It was relieving in some sense to know that I have not said any of the supposedly wrong things to J. The issue of clothing and related self-esteem is something I continue to think about - at what point does it stop being about J and become about what her parents want to project about themselves ? What is the best way for J to blend in with her peer groups, without sacrificing her individuality or becoming one of the herd ? 
While I may not agree with DB's assessment, he does give me food for thought and I am very happy for that.

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