Friday, November 04, 2011

Maybe In Lieu Of Opportunities They Will Take Bacon (I Would)

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Going back and looking over my blog over the last two years, I’ve noticed that I mostly wrote when I was totally overwhelmed with my life and needed an outlet.   When I couldn’t talk about what was going on in my life with anyone who was actually IN my life, I still felt o.k. about coming here and talking about it. (Well, some of it.)  (I don’t know why I can’t talk about this stuff with people in my actual life, other than my sisters. I think I’m afraid of coming across like a big whiner.) (Obviously, I have no compunctions about coming across to YOU this way.) (You're welcome.)

It was a blessing to have you guys out there -  able to step in with advice or just a good smack of reality and/or perspective when I needed it.  But then - RUDE - I never came back and gave you an update.  I thought maybe now (since I seem to be feeling less funny and more overly sincere and earnest) would be a good time to remedy that. 

So for starters, let’s revisit this one about the whole housing mess

And this one about Megan’s friend issues, while we’re at it.  

The house.  Yes, we finally lost our house to foreclosure, after losing our business, our savings, our cars, our self-esteem, and all of our money. (It was a fun couple of years, what can I say.)   It was hard.  It was heartbreaking.  And let’s face it, it was embarrassing.

(my old house) (sniff sniff)

For a while we thought they were going to let us do a short sale, and we had three solid, signed offers.  WHILE the short sale division of the bank was reviewing the offers, another division of the bank foreclosed on us.  Apparently there was some miscommunication at the bank, but their feeling was “what’s done is done.”  Our realtor had to call and give us the news.  We had three weeks to get out.  

We panicked and rented a house in Woods Cross (sweet, sweet land of refineries and gravel pits).  We were looking for something in a decent neighborhood with a short commute and the rental market was tight – especially for something in our time frame.  We walked through the house and signed the lease the same day, because it was the best thing we’d seen all week.  Rent in haste, repent at leisure.

I wasn’t in love with the area.  It was so weird.  It was a nice neighborhood, but located in an industrial area off of Redwood Road and Legacy Parkway.  There were mosquitoes EVERYWHERE.  EVERYWHERE.  MY GOSH YOU GUYS. THE MOSQUITOES.  There were three freeways in close proximity, at least six oil refineries, and as a result the distinct smell of gasoline and exhaust was everywhere. The kids were happy though (apparently clueless that their lungs were rapidly filling with CANCER).  So that was good?  I guess?

A few months later the folks we were renting from ended up losing THEIR shirts and asked (begged, pleaded) if they could break the lease and move back into their home.  It was really, really hard to make a decision (NOT), but we agreed to move right after Christmas.

We found a house to rent up on the Bountiful bench (north of Salt Lake), and we moved in January. Actually, my HUSBAND moved us ( along with my mom, my in-laws, and a lot of really kind church folks) while I was lying in the hospital in a near coma.  So that was fun for him. 

It has been an adjustment to be renters instead of homeowners.   It’s not so much the reality of renting (not having the freedom to rip up nasty carpet or paint things normal colors, etc.).  It’s more that we aren’t sure if we will ever again be able to provide our kids with the stability that comes with home ownership.  The whole - growing up in one spot deal. It will be years before we will be in a position to buy again.   That makes me nervous.  I don’t like the idea of uprooting them over and over again.

The house we are living in is old and not very well made, and I despair over the carpets (WHITE!) (or rather – GRAY!) but it is big enough for our crew, and it is located in a beautiful neighborhood.  It has a huge deck and I love sitting out there ogling the mountains.  (I have almost inappropriate levels of love for the Utah mountains, can you tell?) (No, REALLY, I do) I love the 13 minute drive to work. I love that I can run to my kids’ school on my lunch hour. I love that I can sled down the mountain in my SUV on an icy day.  Wheeeeee! 

 

The neighborhood is pretty sedate, but the people are friendly and we love our neighbors.  My kids have good friends.  That leads me back to Megan.

(that's her) (in case you are new)

You guys, she has just blossomed here.  She has three (THREE!) Very Best Friends – and I am so grateful that they are all sweet, fun, drama-free little girls, who are all still very much little girls, despite reaching the advanced age of ten.  She has a new social and emotional confidence and it has been so healing to see that growth in her.  

I think her confidence can be partly attributed to getting older, is partly because of the friend issue, and partly because we are living in a less stressful environment.  Highland was amazing (if you’ve read for any length of time at all you know how much we loved our neighborhood), but there was a lot of pressure for kids to be outstanding at something.  Megan IS outstanding at many things -  she is academically gifted, she is a pretty good pianist, she is an amazing reader and a great writer (she just won the Reflections contest at her school for literature) – and more importantly she is just such a sweet, kind, GOOD kid.  

But she isn’t a nationally ranked gymnast.  We haven't been able to give her opportunities like that. 

Luckily, there isn’t much pressure for kids to BE nationally ranked gymnasts around here.  Most parents seem satisfied to raise good, well behaved kids who get their homework done.  I think something about this environment has helped to reinforce to Megan that she is, in fact, pretty special and amazing.  It probably helps that she is no longer feels compelled to compare herself to girls who have been given every advantage in the world.  So she is doing great.  She is doing really, really well.

(And here is the part where I go off on a related whiny tangent.)

(Prepare yourselves.) 

OK.  

Even though I KNOW they are amazing kids (So smart! Such great voices!  Such great readers! So clever!) and I KNOW I should just be grateful for what we have (I KNOW IT, DON’T TELL ME) (EVERYONE ELSE IS SHAMING ME WTH THEIR GRATITUDE LISTS) - part of me, in spite of the last paragraph, (and in spite of Kacy’s post) (which I AGREE with) just wishes I could give my kids those same opportunities. 

Like, WHAT IF SHE IS MEANT TO BE A NATIONALLY RANKED GYMNAST AND THE ONLY REASON SHE IS NOT IS BECAUSE OF OUR STUPID FINANCES?  What if that is her DESTINY and I am THWARTING DESTINY??!!  Do you know what I mean? 

It’s not necessarily that I want them to be accomplished, it’s more that I don’t want to deny them opportunities to develop their God-given talents.  To explore their interests.  TO BE ALL THAT THEY CAN BE.

For example: 

  • Megan is so musically gifted and if she had a better teacher she would grow so much - but we just can’t afford it. 
  • Emma loves to ice skate and I often wish that we could afford the kinds of things some of these (slightly psychotic) ice skating moms can afford.  She also has a beautiful voice, and I can see the day coming when she will plead for voice lessons.
  • Jacob is – well honestly, I’m not really sure where his talents lie yet.  (He’s 7.  His main interest right now is nagging at me for another 15 minutes on the Wii, which – NO.)  (But then - I have a friend whose 7 year old is practically a pro-golfer!  And what am I doing with my kid?  READING TO HIM?  WHAT A WASTE OF TIME!  I MEAN, MY GOSH.)

I realize this is a first world problem.

It is just hard not to wish more for them and hard not to feel guilty about what we can provide for them.

Of course, what we can provide will change, eventually.  My husband is back in grad school at night, and I am so proud of him for that.  I have a great job now (I really do, it is FANTASTIC.) (I am obviously feeling a lot better about it now than I did back then.).  And eventually I’d like to go back to school to pursue software engineering.  Hopefully, our situation will be different someday.

For now, I love them the best I can.  I do the best I can for them.  Homework is a big deal here.  Education is a big deal. I teach them piano myself (but it is a scattershot affair).  I did manage to instill a rabid love of reading in all of them, and for that I will go ahead and pat myself on the back.  I try to teach them to be kind, to be honest (LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, CHILDREN), to be loving.  And we teach them to love the great outdoors, because the great outdoors are FREEEEEE.

(look at them traipsing through the great outdoors) (TRAIPSING, I SAY)

I know that compared to 95% of the world’s children they are incredibly lucky.  They have a mom and dad who love them.  They are safe.  They are warm.  They are fed.  They are cared for.  They get to go to school.  I know this.

I am working to be at peace with all of that, but I guess I am not really quite there yet.  I want so much for them.  I want to give them the world, to give them every opportunity in the world.   

And you know what?  

I WILL.  

RIGHT AFTER I GO ROB A BANK THIS AFTERNOON, because let's face it, this "hoping for better days" crap is highly ineffective.  

THE END.

(Good heavens, was that a long enough post?)

(See, this is why I don't update you.  TOO MANY WORDS.  IN MY BRAIN.)

64 comments:

  1. I wish you lived closer and then maybe you could be my piano teacher. Mine gives out compliments like they're the plague and usually just says things like, "Well, in that piece, you did everything wrong."

    My parents couldn't afford to give me lessons as a kid, so I'm taking them now. That's the thing with life, it's never too late to do what you want.

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  2. Anonymous1:57 PM

    We recently cut out piano lessons and our gymn membership for financial reasons. We had a lot of large expenses this year, some on purpose (a minivan since our family will no longer fit in the small car we've driven for over a decade), some not (ear surgery for my daughter, 2 extra semesters of tuition). Money is really tight and it looks like it will run out in January. We still have a wonderful blessed life, but I am feeling a bit nervous about it. Trying not to spend any, but failing because life costs money. Kids grow and need clothes to wear. Seasons change, and they need WARM clothes to wear. People need to eat. Why am I telling you all this? Because I know you've been there and somehow it is cathartic to put it out there, even though I'm hiding behind "anonymous".

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  3. To me, it sounds like you are giving your kids the important things in life. I can understand your desire to provide all those things that money can buy. But placing an importance on education, instilling a love of reading, and being outdoors will serve them well into their adulthood. You have smart, charming and creative kids. Those skills will serve them well as adults.

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  4. Sue, you are giving your children everything they need. EVERY parent worries about not giving their kids enough or the "right" stuff. Every. One. Of. Us. (Well, of those of us who are thinking parents.) There is time for them to become enormously successful, world-changing adults IF THEY WANT TO. As my children get older, the more I realize that most of my job is just to love them fiercely and get out of their way.

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  5. I totally relate, Sue! We lost our home to foreclosure a couple years ago and have been treading the uncertain path of renting ever since. And I just know my daughter would be amazing at so many things but the only thing in our budget for her is learning to make macaroni necklaces. We keep hoping for the sparkling future but it is tough. I'm starting to think my time is better spent by learning about creative things to sue large companies over-heartburn from the Target popcorn, etc. Good luck to us both but mostly to our kids!!

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  6. Your children have all they need at this point, and they are making good progress. Megan is learning piano and just won first place in a writing contest,. Emma sings like an angel and might ruin her voice with formal voice lessons too young. Jake will figure out his place in life as he gets older (hopefully far from the t.v.). And Josh provides lots of comic relief. When your children are a little older and really crave fancy teachers for voice and piano, they can babysit, work at Target, etc., and help pay for them. For now, concentrate on the fact that they are growing to be intelligent, loving, creative, talented children with bright futures. Give yourself a huge pat on the back for a change.

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  7. Sue, listen to your mother. These are words of wisdom. There is nothing wrong with children having to work for some for the extras they want. They have a greater appreciation and are must less likely to take things for granted or develop the attitude that they are entitled.

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  8. I can relate because my daughter has always been one of *those* kinds that you think could DO ANYTHING AND EVERTHING if I were A) more of a stage mom and B) not living THE STUDENT LIFE in perpetuity. But then a part of me thinks that maybe it's better to have a happy, stress-free childhood that is crammed with magic and memories (eg: building fairy houses out of sticks, ferns, shells, flowers etc...free, fun time together, and when the fairies sprinkle a little FAIRY DUST or glitter around it at night, it becomes MAGICAL), I can't help but feel like they're living the dream.

    And maybe those Highland kids' parents are giving their kids ulcers. I've known a few families like those you're describing...whose kids have been given every advantage and spent thousands of hours on their sport each year and risen to the cream of the crop (such that it is), but then, so what?

    Because the fact is, most of the AMAZING ATHLETES we see as kids don't end up doing anything with it as adults. The hours and thousands of dollars spent chasing balls, swimming/skating/riding/racing are a good way to pass time and stay strong and healthy, but the VAST majority of those participating in sports, for example, will never make a living at it or be defined by their talent/skill. And they miss out on a lot of other things because of their pursuits.

    So I say it's fine to not be overboard on the sports accomplishment guilt. Now, teaching your kids piano? That's a life-long ability that will actually serve them well and benefit others. But again, most musically-talented people never do more with it that play or sing at church. And that's fine! So totally FINE! They can be happy, balanced, loved, secure, productive, contributing members of the human race without their stage-mom/dad parents driving the direction they go in.

    I try to give my kids exposure to lots of areas and if they are drawn to something, I try to support them in any way our Perpetual Student Way Of Life will allow...but that's pretty small scale.

    I could relate to many of your thoughts in this post. So happy that your beautiful girl is doing well and thriving in your new environment. And btw, I love the penny mosaic/floor idea! want to try it. Maybe a piece of art or coffee table or something. ♥

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  9. Oh, gosh. Your kids will not feel deprived if you don't feel deprived for them.

    I was a kid whose 5th grade teacher felt compelled to have tested because of suspected smartness. Indeed, they found I had a high IQ. That, however, did not change my parents' income of "below poverty". Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, I got NO extracurricular activities that were not free and provided by the school.

    Who knows what I would have excelled in had my parents had all the resources in the world. Really, who cares? My experience meant that what I am destined to blossom in is not in something that I could have been introduced to at that time. I find myself only now at the age of 36 learning that I get to choose what to blossom in. [Dang it, Sue, you do, too!]

    Late bloomer? I suppose, if someone wants to compare me to someone else. But I don't believe for one minute that God created me to be a person who could only bloom if the right amount of money was present.

    Wishes are like fishes. They stink if you don't cook them.

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  10. Boy do I feel you. I grew up with everything I ever wanted and it has been very sobering and humbling for me as a grown up to realize how lucky I was. My husband has a masters degree, I have a bachelor's degree, but we still made an income below poverty level when we lived in Utah. So we uprooted and moved to New Mexico for a new higher paying job, only now our condo in UT is sitting empty and we're paying for it (we've been approved for a short sale but now I'm panicking over your experience), and so money is tighter now than it was before, plus I have to live in GALLUP NEW MEXICO. Our kids have taken no lessons of any sort; we haven't started saving for college or missions; we had to cash in my husband's 401(k) to pay off our credit card, so we basically have zero. And now we make a much higher income and will actually have to pay taxes this year instead of getting a $6k return after only paying $74... (true story). SO...long story short. I FEEL YOU, SUE. I really really do. I'll tell you the worst part for me--each of my siblings is raking it in. Two doctors, a lawyer, an accountant, an engineer, all gainfully employed and, well, making boatloads of money. I realize I am full of pride and this is my lot in life, but man it sucks. I just want a celebrity or Bill Gates or someone to give me $100k. They wouldn't even notice it was missing and it would make such a huge difference in our lives! I mean really. We've done what we can to better our lives and NOTHING IS HAPPENING. Sometimes I want to shout "where are the windows of heaven???" and that's why I'm doing a gratitude list.

    Whew. Long enough for ya?

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  11. This post warrants a long, thoughtful comment, but I'm only in the mood for a short one. Squeeze it hard and lots of thoughtfulness will leak out.

    The things you are teaching them to love: reading, outdoors, music, etc. (not the mention the infinitely important skill that is whatever the opposite of entitlement is.) are true life-long skills. They will make their life richer when they are adults. No offense to all other kinds of pursuits, but when you are a mother of teenagers, it does not make a great contribution to your life that you could once do a phenomenal cheerleading stunt.

    And by the way, as a child that moved around quite a bit growing up, stability (at least location-wise) is highly overrated. My character was honestly strengthened by the things I learned in all the different places we lives. Family stability is, yes, very important, but if that can survive whatever apartment or state or neighborhood you live in, then your kids are blessed indeed.

    I take it back. That was kind of long and thoughtful after all.

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  12. Anonymous5:24 PM

    I think most every parent wants to provide the best opportunities for their children. However, sometimes, we have had to step back and make sure that it was all really in their best long term interest.

    Sometimes I think we have a tendency to want to give our children more material things, or things that require material funding than may be good for them at times (speaking personally).

    Honestly, you are providing them the things they need for a foundation for a happy life. A love of reading will pay dividends the rest of their lives. Spending time in the outdoors is something invaluable. In short, you are allowing them to have a great childhood. You are teaching them how to be happy, productive adults.

    I went to school with a lot of very privileged kids (not that I wasn't given a lot too). However, some of them were given too much without learning how to work for it or put forth effort. Many of them turned out to be underachievers as adults, incapable of working hard for themselves.

    Give yourself a break. Sometimes the things we think we may want for our kids are not really what they want for themselves. They just want us to accept and love them, and not for what they can do on the parallel bars.

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  13. Oh dang. When I get home, you need to drive down here from Bountiful so I can shake you personally. My parents COULD have given me WAY more opportunities than they did, the thrifty little beasts. They COULD have sent me to horse riding lessons and I would have been GREAT. Because I have a way with horses. They could have MADE me continue piano even when they couldn't make me practice. They could have sat on my head and made a big deal out of it instead of just standing there, shrugging and calling the whole thing off. Because I have really nifty musical gifts.

    They could have bought me a better flute, now I'm thinking of it, one of the really much easier ones to get a tone out of, you know - more expensive, because I had a gift for that, too. Or they could have sent me to a writing - something. Training place. Or kept me in dance. Or put me into corporate management training at an early age.

    Because I KNOW I could have had better teachers. My parents had this attitude that the world didn't revolve around me and that what I REALLY needed to learn was how to be less selfish and more compassionate. And they thought that working hard was lesson enough. PLUS, they figured, if I really had a gift for something, I'd WANT to work hard and I'd find a way - any way I could - to do that thing and do it well. Like actually play the piano in the living room, or find a gymnastics lesson place and make a deal to clean the rest rooms in exchange for lessons.

    I was SO deprived.

    And yet. And yet. I have had this wonderful life. Not spectacular. In a little neighborhood that wasn't built by people who were spectacularly concerned with architecture. ( Wait - I think that was EVERY little neighborhood I ever lived in - and how many were there? Three in Kansas City, one in L.A., one in New York, one in Texas - and that was before I was sixteen (which is why my books are always about kids who have just moved to new places).

    We've lived in our little neighborhood a long time now, and I do prefer not moving kids - even though I know it doesn't kill them, the moving. I'm a stay at home mom. Homeschooled for fun. Decided to write and did it, and kept doing it till I got published. Won awards - while all the time being just a stay at home mom. Ran my business - really out of our home. Entertained some interesting people there, including a couple of famous ones, like a state senator and one well known singer who got soaked once when our sprinklers went on - and some famous by association, like the daughter of Jesse Jackson - and a whole lot of brilliant relative un or not widely knowns.

    And I have friends. And I've been places that amazed me, and read things I loved, and made things with my hands and taught hundreds of children and am amazed every day at the unlikely beauty and joy that comes in through the eyes and the ears - and- sadly - the mouth.

    And I got us out of debt. And somehow, we have lived well on not very much for a very, very long time.

    Darn my parents for holding me back.

    Really. Drive down and I'll take you to lunch. You can be shaken before or after we eat.

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  14. Your kids sound like the kind of kids I want my children to be friends with*. Decent, kind, fun. Those are qualities that make wonderful friends.

    *You know- if we were actually friends in real life and I wasn't just some random blog stalker :)

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  15. Sue, it's a sociological fact that deprivation is relative. Meaning that it is normal that you feel deprived, because others in your cohort are giving their kids more. So you aren't ungrateful, you are just normal.

    That said, I urge you to step back and think about some of the best adults you know. Were they given all that stuff as kids? Did it make a difference in the long run? Because our job isn't to raise kids but to raise adults. What seems wonderful for a kid really may not be the best thing to help him grow into an adult. And we do not need to be the best at ANYTHING to be a happy adult.

    Essentially, what I have learned over my years of raising children (and you know some of what we have gone through), what is important is the time you spend together with the children, the relationships you build with them. Before you know it, they are GONE (either mentally or physically or both) and it really doesn't matter what sort of lessons they had. It is completely irrelevant.

    Except swimming - every kid needs to be able to swim well enough to save his own life. That's all.

    Yes, I wish I had more money for more "fun" things for the kids; but half the time when I do spend some money on them, it's the cheap stupid things they most enjoy. We walked to the bagel shop today (we had a coupon) and then stopped in the bookstore and read all the comic books. That's what passes for fun in this household. Also, we go ice skating once a week. I've already explained to them that it costs too much money to learn to skate like that girl in the pretty dress doing leaps and twirls; and they're okay with that.

    I have a grown friend whose parents spent all sorts of money on ice skating, by the way. She ended up breaking her back. She doesn't give her kids skating lessons. And she HAS money.

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  16. Giving your kids all the opportunities that you can fit into their days is not what will make them happy and successful adults. It is the things that they work for themselves, that build character and ambition. If they have a skill or ability that is something they truly love, ways can be found to pursue those interests and if they want it badly enough they will make it happen....maybe not when they're 10, but when they are older and able to pursue their own path.

    You are giving them the tools they need to become whole, functional, and solid adults. The rest is just not as important.

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  17. You give them what you can give them. To be great in this world does not mean that you have to provide them with every kind of lesson or experience money can by. You give them the tools they need to make their own opportunities. You give them the courage to go out and fight for what they want. Otherwise, no matter what lessons or teams or what ever you put them in, it won't matter a single bit. Because they wont have the courage to do anything with that knowledge. And that would be an even greater tragedy.

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  18. Inhonestly think there are some places that are toxic to our self esteem. I know you loved your neighborhood and friends and stuff but you are like the 10th person I've known in that area that had feelings of low self esteem about their appearance, embarrassment over financial struggles, issues with feeling like they had to "keep up with the jones'" whether it be lessons, sports, private schools, designer clothes, plastic surgery, a bigger lavish house or the HCG diet (don't get me started). In the real world outside the bubble, moms are chubby and laugh while we diet and drive carpool. We buy our clothes at Target and TJ max, we drink a lot of diet coke and EVERYBODY has financial problems sp pull up a chair sister! My husband is in the military and my kids get to go to equestrian camp and leadership camp this summer. Why? Because they have camps on base where we live that are cheap. So yay. But their Dad won't get to see them ride a horse or come to the Daddy Daughter dance because he'll be in Afghanistan. There's all sorts of real life crap that sucks but who cares? We are all (especially you) doing a great job, working your butt off, worrying about your kids (just wishing you could do more speaks volumes about how great of a mom you are) and you've focused on reading, writing and fun family time. It's obvious on their faces how much they love you. Let them be in more photos with you like that Halloween one. So they can remember how much they adored their Mom growing up. Not because she put on puppy ears, not because she weighs less, not because she gave them voice lessons but they'll know because they'll see it on their faces, in their eyes and in yours. And they'll remember you snuggling up with a book, the feel of your hugs, how you stopped with their baby brother to wook at the punkins while trick or treating. You are giving them everything that matters. And so much more than other parents who are so busy trying to make everything "look" just perfect when in reality it NEVER is.

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  19. I didn't read the other comments, so maybe this is repetitive.

    I think that every parent wants to give their children all the best education and best opportunities possible... And no one is fond of "ripping" kids from their life to move over and over again. But here's the thing...

    I was having these exact thoughts a few years ago. We are a military family. We move every two to three years. We make enough money to provide & not a lot extra. And when I was distressing over these things, God cut in and reminded me that He knows our family, and He knows ALL of our circumstances past, present, and future and He knows EXACTLY which kids need us for parents for their mortality experience.

    So my point is, when He sent you your beautiful and talented children He knew exactly what He was doing and if they were MEANT to be WORLD-CLASS GYMNASTS they would have been sent to another family. So, do the best you can with what you have and know that they needed YOU more than they needed professional private lessons and what-not.

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  20. I'm likely being oversensitive here (I do that every so often), but I found Amy's comment "In the real world outside the bubble, moms are chubby and laugh while we diet and drive carpool. We buy our clothes at Target and TJ max, we drink a lot of diet coke and EVERYBODY has financial problems" insulting.

    I don't do any of those, and I can't get anymore "outside the bubble" as I've lived in several states and one other country.

    That statement is the SAME and just as judgmental as someone else saying that in the real world, moms concern themselves with "lessons, sports, private schools, designer clothes, plastic surgery, a bigger lavish house or the HCG diet."

    I don't do any of those either.

    So where the heck do *I* and other women who aren't in either of those categories (or who have a bit of both) fit in?

    One scenario isn't worse or better than the other UNLESS someone is trying to do something against their own personality and desires AND wants to go about the ill pattern of comparing people. Each of us women should be careful about placing judgment on someone else's choice of life. That's where most emotional problems in our country arise.

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  21. I recently read a book called: Anonymous: Jesus' Hidden Years and Yours and it changed my perspective on these things. Childhood and youth is a time to be preparing kids for the world by shaping their character, not by placing them in high pressure situations. Nobody heard of Jesus till he was in his thirties. Until then, he lived in obscurity, presumably learning to be an ordinary carpenter. We need those long dull periods of ordinariness. We need the hidden years. That is where we are forged.

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  22. So glad your family is adjusting well. I think that Megan would much rather have good friends than expensive opportunities. If she is destined for something she will find it, it will happen.

    I'm personally living with my in-laws right now because my husband lost his job and hasn't been able to find another one... it's stressful and it's hard.

    My mom sent me a link to this article to help me to feel like it was just us (and it's NOT)... you may enjoy it. So here it is.

    http://redtape.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/02/8586286-recession-threatens-generation-of-young-adults-inspires-occupy-protests

    It's nice to know some statistics on the fact that we aren't alone in feeling a little "lost"

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  23. That's supposed to say "wasn't just us"

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  24. I know some world class musicians/athletes/superbrains. Seriously, WORLD CLASS people who are THE BEST at what they do.

    Um, they're kind of unhappy jerks.

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  25. You probably don't need one more comment on top of all the great thoughts/advice/opinions that you've already received, but I can't help myself.

    Have I told you before that you remind me of my mom?

    We grew up super poor. We moved 29 times before I turned 19. We spent a year living in a tent. My parents were loving, faithful, and involved us in all kinds of decision making so that we could feel some sense of control in our very out-of-control lives. We were always very aware that despite our unusual circumstances, they were doing their best to follow the spirit and provide for us as best they could.

    But my mom worried. She'd get ulcers dreaming up ways to sell a script {she's a writer}, make a million dollars and put us in to all kinds of classes and extra-curriculars. She dreamed of sending my brothers to NASA camp, giving me art lessons, letting us pursue every dream and talent we possessed or even just buying us clothes that weren't second {or third} hand.

    It never happened. And I won't say that I didn't feel deprived at times. Or too aware of finances at a young age. I've come away from childhood with my own set of scars I had to overcome. But you know what? WE ALL DO.

    I now have 4 children and we've lived in the same house for 6 years. 6 YEARS! They've never had to get a job to help support us. They've never had their piggy banks raided for spare quarters to buy milk. They've never had Thanksgiving put off until next week while we wait for a paycheck.

    AND I WORRY THAT I'M RUINING THEM BECAUSE OF IT!

    Their lives are so foreign to the way that I grew up, I worry that they won't learn any of the valuable lessons and skills that I took away from childhood. Will they know how to work hard? Be selfless? Rely on the Lord? Will they learn to be creative with what they have? To be confident of their own capabilities? To hold their own in conversations with adults? To cook and sew and plant and grow?

    I don't know. But my husband grew up living a middle class {spoiled} life, and he turned out fine {even if his grammar is terrible}. He worries because he can't provide that same life for our kids. I worry because we can. :)

    All this to say that I don't believe in thwarting destiny. Some of the greatest people in history {Joseph Smith included} have come from poor upbringings. I believe that our job lies in taking advantage of the opportunities we are given, whether they be great or small.

    You're kids will thrive where they're planted. You love them enough to worry about this in the first place, which in my book, means they already have all they need. :)

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  26. I have SO MANY thoughts on this topic. SO MANY. I can't even think how to write an even slightly less than novel-length comment.

    But I really like what a lot of the other comments said.

    I heartily agree that too much opportunity can spoil kids and make them selfish, and that too much pressure can psychologically damage them. But I also really relate to the fear of being the one to keep my kid from succeeding by not providing an opportunity. And some opportunities (like being a world-class gymnast) are only for the very young. But I hate that, too. So maybe one answer is to focus most on helping our kids develop skills they can use throughout their lives--and try to teach them, by word and example, that life isn't just for the young.

    Mabel tried out for The Sound of Music at Sundance this last summer, and made it to callbacks but was beat out by kids with LOTS more experience; kids who've been acting for life. Mabel was really disappointed because she's the perfect age to be Greta, loves that character, and felt like that might have been her only chance to play that role. BUT, at the end of the summer, looking back at all the family activities (and sleep!) she would have had to missed to be in the show, she was very glad she hadn't been. But there's another show she wants to try out for in the spring . . . and how can she stand a chance when we haven't had her in acting/music lessons since she was three? (Especially around here where so many kids have been?) BUT, as others said above, she has her whole life ahead of her (maybe she can't play Greta, but she could play Maria) and if she really wants to do it, she can pursue it, especially as she gets older and can drive herself to practices and help pay for lessons, etc.

    I think one of the reasons I'm so susceptible (in spite of wonderful talks like the Good, Better, Best one) to fearing I'm not doing enough is that my kids have such remarkable talents--really!--and, as I said above, we have such a youth-centric culture. So I'm always wondering if it's a good or a bad thing that I'm not helping Mabel be the next Hannah Montana. (That should be a no-brainer. And yet it's not, always.) So it was enormously comforting when Mabel said to me one day that what she really wants most is just to be a mom and have a normal life. I know she'll also do spectacular things, but I'm grateful she recognizes that that can be plenty good enough.

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  27. And another thing. My grandpa always said, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans," and I've generally been pretty good (sort of? somewhat?) with being patient with life's vicissitudes as they've affected *me*. But it's harder on behalf of my kids, because their childhoods are so short that what's just a rough few years for me can be a whole rough lifetime for them. I hate that I very likely might not get my act together until my kids aren't around to benefit from it. (Especially since, cough, most of my problems are their fault--kidding! Mostly.) But maybe I'm taking the short view, to think that the few years they're in my nest are the only ones when I'll have any significant influence on them. Of course it'll never be the same as when they're very young, but if I really believe they're mine forever, than I should be taking the very long view indeed.

    (Still, the limitations of a mortal time scale are frustrating indeed.)

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  28. I found you via ~j. Nice blog. Bummer about life and the economy and all that. The good part is: by the time they are 25 or 30 years old what you were or were not able to provided for your children when they were 10 won't really matter all that much. They'll make their own way.

    This is not to say that I didn't feel just like you do now, when my kids were young. But I wish I could have known then what I know now. I wouldn't have spent so much time fretting. I would have been much happier and that is the best thing any mom can give her kids anyway. God bless.

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  29. And bacon. Bacon is the next best thing.

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  30. Well, I have two thoughts about that:
    1) I really believe that if our kids have some really amazing, stellar, world-class talent for something that either they'll be unavoidably drawn to it like a cosmic magnet or God will somehow bring it to them. I know of too many kids from far poorer circumstances who have managed to become world-class athletes and performers and such to believe that you have to be well-off for your kids to be successful.
    B) I know you know this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Success isn't always about the awards, the contests won, the trophies on the shelf and the worldly accolades. So many of our kids' talents are things that are less visible--like they are truly loyal friends, they are fabulous test-takers, they read really fast, they are unbelievably compassionate, etc. So if your kids don't seem to be getting the opportunities you think they need, dont' forget that having them grow up feeling loved and confident and well-adjusted (and moral!) will put them in the top 99.9% of people in the world! I call that very successful!

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  31. Well, I have two thoughts about that:
    1) I really believe that if our kids have some really amazing, stellar, world-class talent for something that either they'll be unavoidably drawn to it like a cosmic magnet or God will somehow bring it to them. I know of too many kids from far poorer circumstances who have managed to become world-class athletes and performers and such to believe that you have to be well-off for your kids to be successful.
    B) I know you know this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Success isn't always about the awards, the contests won, the trophies on the shelf and the worldly accolades. So many of our kids' talents are things that are less visible--like they are truly loyal friends, they are fabulous test-takers, they read really fast, they are unbelievably compassionate, etc. So if your kids don't seem to be getting the opportunities you think they need, dont' forget that having them grow up feeling loved and confident and well-adjusted (and moral!) will put them in the top 99.9% of people in the world! I call that very successful!

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  32. Well, I have two thoughts about that:
    1) I really believe that if our kids have some really amazing, stellar, world-class talent for something that either they'll be unavoidably drawn to it like a cosmic magnet or God will somehow bring it to them. I know of too many kids from far poorer circumstances who have managed to become world-class athletes and performers and such to believe that you have to be well-off for your kids to be successful.
    B) I know you know this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Success isn't always about the awards, the contests won, the trophies on the shelf and the worldly accolades. So many of our kids' talents are things that are less visible--like they are truly loyal friends, they are fabulous test-takers, they read really fast, they are unbelievably compassionate, etc. So if your kids don't seem to be getting the opportunities you think they need, dont' forget that having them grow up feeling loved and confident and well-adjusted (and moral!) will put them in the top 99.9% of people in the world! I call that very successful!

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  33. I understand where you are coming from, Sue, even if I look at things differently. I believe that wanting what is best for our children comes naturally and we shouldn't suppress that! I also feel, though, that our culture pushes parents into thinking that we only have this ONE opportunity. It is wrong. If you can't get your kids certain things they want now, there will be plenty of opportunities for them later. They may never become an Olympic gold medalists, but who wants that anyway? All it does is introduce steroids into a kid's life. : )

    I am so glad you are enjoying your new place, it looks lovely! But having never owned a home so I can't relate to the owning vs renting debate. I do know that wanting continuity and stability in your children's life is a worthy goal!

    I am also thrilled that Megan has no drama friends. Thank goodness. That is so much better and safer for any girl.

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  34. Over a year ago I pulled my kids out of every single extra-curricular activity. Even piano. I just couldn't handle the chaos. Too much going on. So we quit.

    I have decided that it's more important to have a good life together. I now have time to make a nice dinner and we usually are all home to eat together. Considering I have six children and two are teens, that is pretty remarkable.

    I am around to make sure kids practice their band instruments (yay for school music stuff. It's on their time, not mine) and help with homework.

    I now have time to just enjoy my kids and let them do whatever. Being busy, busy, busy makes me insane.

    Also, why have we subscibed to this weird idea that kids must develop talents as children or there will be NO HOPE FOR THEM EVER! I have to admit, not so modestly, that I am a pretty talented person. I can do lots of cool things. But I didn't do anything growing up. No talents, very few lessons, no real hobbies. I learned all these things as an adult. I even started playing the harp (which had been my lifelong dream) when I turned 32. I love it now more than I ever would have as a child.

    Why are pushing them so hard while they are children? Is there some sort of medal awarded to the most awesome 18 year old? And after that life becomes a footnote?

    I also agree with Omgirl (she is my sister and we've talked about this at length). If you're kids are meant to do something spectacular, you'll know!

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  35. Jennie W. : right on!

    It's amazing how many parents now require themselves to offer these "opportunities" for their kids at all costs (emotional, financial and otherwise).

    I am a money counselor, and I never cease to be amazed when I work with parents who are at the end of their financial rope (and often times, their marital hope) who will not, cannot, cut out their kids' music lessons or sports teams in order to save their house, their sanity, and their relationships. I promise that these kids would rather give up clarinet and football in exchange for happier parents and a stable home environment.

    It is a crazy backwards nutso world that has creeped into some of our sisters' heads!

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  36. I think wanting more for our kids is a natural thing. We want to feel like we have given them every opportunity, but we forget that sometimes that giving is at the risk of losing something else, like quiet time together as a family because we are running them everywhere but home.

    Your place looks very nice. Is it wrong that I sometimes dream of being a renter and paying less for my life each month???

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  37. Hey, I totally understand. I think most of us do, especially these days. My daughter just started a gymnastics class with her birthday money and now? Of course she has been pulled aside as being "gifted" and "above her level" and I am frothing at the mouth at the idea of paying for not only more than ONE class (on a whim) but also more expensive classes (because NATURALLY they are more expensive, right?)

    Sigh.

    At least you have the mountains. We have very flat land around Illinois(which I love, but still. Flat).

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  38. A great post.
    Honest.
    You have really been through it, I can't even fathom.

    Your kids are amazing and they are that because of their mom and dad.

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  39. Three simple words.

    I. Love. You.

    In some twisted, unhealthy, uncomfortable, bizarre, Google-Reader-stalker way. I think it's because you're my sister-from-another-mister.

    This post is genius because, simply put, it is brutally honest. Kudos to you for saying what others will only think to themselves.

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  40. I am at work and can’t respond to every comment individually, but can I respond to the overall sentiment? These comments were (forgive me for using this phrase again) healing for me. I am thankful for these comments today - for the reassuring tone, for the thoughtful and loving advice. I’ve read them over several times and need to post a few of them on my mirror I think.

    I am confident about certain parts of mothering, but there are other areas where I am (obviously) not. I struggle with guilt. I love these little creatures so much and want to do the best I can for them. I know that we are doing the best we can with the resources we have. I know that they will be o.k. and hope that they will grow into happy adults.

    The reason that I worry about this is not because I want any of them to grow up to be concert pianists or track stars. It’s because of college.

    Along the lines of what Zina said, I don’t know what the high school is like here in Bountiful, but in Highland? Just to be in a HIGH SCHOOL musical, just to get a part, you had to have years of vocal and dance training. In HIGH SCHOOL. To get on one of the soccer teams you had to have years of soccer and private coaching. (That’s what I’ve been told anyway.) The competition is crazy, and if you want your kids to have a chance of pursuing their interests in high school, if you wait until then to start pursuing formal training you are already way too late.

    And unfortunately, if my kids want to go to college – they will need either student loans or scholarships, or some combination of the two. If they want scholarships they need to do well at something colleges are interested in. I hate knowing that my kids are CAPABLE of that level of excellence and the only thing holding them back is me. I want them to have a shot at scholarship money, so that they can go to college and get degrees without starting off life with a tremendous amount of student loan debt. I honestly don’t care about going to an ivy league school, going to BYU, going to whatever insanely competitive school is out there.

    My friends and I used to talk about this in book club, the dangers of overscheduling your kids vs not scheduling your kids. We read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and, while we agreed that she was insane, some of the moms expressed doubt about whether or not it was just as dangerous not to push them at all.

    There is another part of me that thinks it is all ridiculous. The part that loved “Last Child in the Woods” and “Free Range Parenting”. The part that agrees with almost all of these comments. The part that wants to give myself a good shake.

    I drift back and forth between those two persectives.

    Of course they will be o.k., regardless. I just want to give them the best start in life that I possibly can. And I am doing that, with the resources I have. I guess I am just mourning the lack of resources.

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  41. PS: They are not in any danger of being spoiled, never fear. (If you could’ve seen the ridiculous amount of joy they took over getting new snow boots this weekend (the old ones didn’t fit), you would know what I’m talking about.

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  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  43. bonrhe said...
    Man! I really appreciate this post and all the comments! This started a great conversation with my husband about what we want/can do for our kids. My first daughter pined for the piano, and I think it is very important... so we did it. We scraped together $$ and bought a mid-range digital piano with the idea that all four of our kids would learn. We found a lovely beginning teacher in the neighborhood, and the girl practices nearly every day on her own volition and passion for it. In comes 2nd child. She has said to me at the ripe age of six that she feels like between school and speech and church that it is all too much to add piano. She said she "just wants to come home and be a kid."

    Well.

    Guess I can get behind THAT! Plus, who the crap would want to take piano following a big sister who is a bit of a phenom? We will try to get kid#2 into guitar or dance when she turns eight next year... but especially with THIS particular kid? I think forcing her would be a mistake. Yet, I was headed in that direction because taking piano and learning music is "So Important!"

    I am also trying to wrap my head around dumping huge amounts of $$ into lessons year after year.... so you can catch a break in college tuition? Wonder how the math really breaks down there. If you average out EVERYONE who is paying in to that experiment, versus how much they see back in scholarships.... doubt it is worth it except at the very top level.... and that would have as much to do with natural ability and desire as coaching.

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  44. That is a good point Bon.

    Have any of you ever read Outliers? In Outliers he makes the case that in order for anyone (Bill Gates, Mozart, etc.) to become an expert/phenom at ANYTHING, it takes 10,000 hours of practice. That natural ability really doesn't count for much at all. That musicians/athletes/computer scientists/what-have-you who are regarded as the top of their field have ONE thing in common - the amount of practice they put into it. And that most of them started at an exceptionally young age. For example, within the book he describes how Bill Gates was able to get in about 10,000 hours of practice with computers while still in middle school and high school.

    It's a fascinating read. Fills you with angst and thoughts about how far to push your kids, but still - fascinating.

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  45. I worry about the same thing... what if I'm not nurturing the right talent, and what if we can't afford the right talent. I feel like a constant screw up.

    But I'm harboring a big grudge, against my parents who didn't do a thing to nurture any talents of mine. Extracurricular activities were Forbidden... we all know I would have been a Champion Ice Skater, but my parents never let me try it, so the world missed out. And it wasn't a money thing for them, they were just so "over raising kids" by the time I rolled around.

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  46. Anonymous8:58 AM

    You know, I never lived in one of those "houses I spent my whole life in" houses. I moved all the time throughout my childhood and adult years. I don't know where I'd call "home" -- so I default to where I was born, my parents and grandparents were also born there, so I figger we're From There. But I have to say, moving around a lot also has its advantages. There's not an inherent superiority of experience in staying in one place; staying put can also limit a person's outlook on life, their experiences of other people and ways of living. So there's that side of it as well.

    Sounds like you're anyhow in a better position now than you were in the previous place. Wait and see, life always suprises you. :-)

    - swizzly

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  47. Looks like you've had a whole bunch of comments, so I'm going to assume they've covered everything important and not give this response quite as much thought as it deserves... but I don't have the time, and if I stopped to think about it I wouldn't write at all. But my 2 cents... I was a kid in the odd position of being raised in a single-parent family, but still having all the opportunities because of a crazy-sacrificing mother (we're Chinese, it's cultural). Expensive piano lessons she couldn't afford, voice lessons from renowned instructors, medical school. She made it all happen because she felt it was important. And you know, yeah, I play the piano, and yeah, I sing, and yeah, I'm a doctor. But I play mostly at church, and I sing with a community choir, and my MD sits tucked in a mailing tube while I full-time mother 4 little people. There's nothing wrong with opportunities, but putting the importance on having the BEST of everything sometimes shifts the emphasis from pursuing an interest for the sheer enjoyment of it, to something else more based on competition and pride. I think true genius will come out whatever its setting, but for most of us, we just have talent. (I remember your post about having a "nice little Yamaha." Yeah, I have a Yamaha voice... I could never have been at the Met, no matter how hard I worked, just isn't built into me.) And you know, that is ok, because if we get joy from it, then it is good enough for right now... and who is to say that with an eternity to grow, we can't both be Yamahas now and become Steinways in millenia to come.

    Anyhow, I think the most important thing you are doing for your kids is loving them and supporting them. For all that my mother sacrificed everything to give me every opportunity, we never had a very nurturing relationship, and it's still something that comes back to haunt.

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  48. Read "The Color of Water." It makes everything seem okay, and you admire those that rise above their circumstances. It's one of my favorite books ever.

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  49. YOur kids are blessed. When they are 25 or 35 or 45 it's not going to matter that they didn't have voice lessons or ice skating lessons.

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  50. Read the Glass Castle. Or don't, because it is kind of a downer.

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  51. Yeah, *don't* read 'Glass castle'.

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  52. I'm one of nine kids and we did hardly any extracurricular things, and had a lot of chaos in our home. (In fact, The Glass Castle reminded me of my childhood, in tone if not in degree. Her experiences were MUCH more extreme than mine, but the unpredictability, volatility, and uncertainty were extremely familiar.) I wish I'd had more structure and more opportunities outside my home, and I've tried to provide those things for my kids. But I also haven't been kept from pursuing my interests as an adult, and have probably been stronger and more independent in those pursuits than if things had been handed to me.

    I paid for one or maybe two semesters at BYU out of my own savings before someone suggested to me that I apply for an academic scholarship. And then I never had to pay tuition again. (I did have to work part-time throughout college, and be very frugal.) Dean also came from a poor family (and only did academic pursuits, no sports) but had a full-ride scholarship. So being good at schoolwork can be the most direct route to college money--although you can't predict or control which of your kids will be able and motivated to get good grades. And of course competition is always getting tighter for scholarship money--but on the other hand, the kids who are not used to being self-motivated make it easier for those who are.

    I loved Joy's comment, "Who is to say that with an eternity to grow, we can't both be Yamahas now and become Steinways in millenia to come?"

    And I didn't remember, Jennie W., that you had pulled your kids out of all their extracurriculars. I loved your comment, too. And I do think that if too many activities keep us from having dinner as a family or creating a loving family culture, it's better to let the activities go. And I strongly agree with you it's a crazy world where everything worth doing has to be mastered by age 18.

    My sister and brother-in-law put two of their kids in summer school after reading Outliers. I'm not sure it changed their kids' lives for the better. (Maybe it did.) I haven't read Outliers, but I read a bunch of the one-star reviews on Amazon and they persuaded me that some of Gladwell's reasoning is off or incomplete. (Another sister and brother-in-law of mine call Gladwell Gadwell, because they think he's great at telling stories, but that he often fails to account for counter-arguments.) Anyway, by definition only a very few people can be outliers. Should they be our kids? Do we even have any control over that? (I don't know! Sometimes! Sometimes not!) I think it's natural that we're fascinated by excellence and extraordinary success, and certainly it's beautiful to see people do things beautifully. But it's so tricky to do the best we can to provide opportunities, but also teach our children that ordinary people doing their best are still wonderful. And good enough.

    (See, I STILL have lots to say about this topic. Thanks for bringing it up, it's very interesting.)

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  53. By the way--I *must* be getting close to 10,000 hours of internet time. :)

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  54. My 2 cents worth:
    Even if you could afford gymnastics class or whatever you'd be worried you were missing something else. You will never be happy if this is your focus. I know you already know this. But honestly, who cares if she's supposed to be a world-class gymnast/ice-skater/astronaut/basketballplayer/whatever? That would be, overall, only a part of her life. By the time she's 30, it'll be so much more important that you raised her to be healthy and happy and nice to other people.
    I have so much guilt. None of my kids learned piano cuz I raised them in Mauritania and we never had any money. Ilsa wants dance lessons, pleads for them, but we can't afford it. Oh well. She'll survive. The chances of it changing her life are small.
    One more thing: thanks for updating us! I too am TERRIBLE at that. I assume people have forgotten and don't care about old stuff when it's my blog, even though I am interested if it's anyone else's blog. Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the sense of stability if you move your kids a lot. My kids have oodles of self-confidence and are really good at meeting new people. That's what moving a lot gets you. In everything in life, there are trade-offs. Gosh I'm pontificating at you today--I'm going now.

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  55. for heck's sakes, i admire this honesty. i've felt much of this same way at times (re: opportunities for my kids) and they're 4 & 1!

    my husband is in law school and things are tight. when we were deciding on law schools, BYU welcomed him with open arms. that tuition compared to the other offers he got was minimal. i grew up in utah. but for some reason, i knew that utah was not the place. (haha, brigham young. funny.) i knew that the potential for me to ENDLESSLY compare myself to other people in utah valley and beyond would shirley make my head spin off. that was honestly a major factor in our decision. sad? i don't know.

    i didn't have dance lessons, or after school activities. i read and read and used *gasp* my imagination! for afternoons! and weekends! and you know what? i think i'm all right. (though there may be some debate.) i hope that one day we can afford to give our kids what i didn't have, at least a little bit. i want them to have opportunities to try. we'll see, i guess!

    thank you for posting. continued thoughts your way, your kids are lucky to have you!

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  56. Wow. Wow. Wow.
    You've just put another face on foreclosure. What a story and a journey.
    I wish you all the best. THINGS ALWAYS turn back around. And for those of us who have had the face the hardest, we can face the future wiser, stronger. All the best to you & yours.

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  57. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Sue,

    I have to say that my oldest just moved out a few months ago (he's 20) and I'm constantly thinking that I wish I would have given him LESS - much LESS! He didn't have anything extravagant either. No special school, no fancy lessons. We tried hard to teach him to work and to be selfless. We were pretty poor for most of his growing up years. And yet, he has this false sense of entitlement. He seems to think the world owes him something. You know...a house, a car, an x-box, a fancy job, a cool phone and endless time to play with his friends and do completely unproductive things. I seriously want to take every cent from him and throw him out on the street homeless so he can understand what life is really like (not really, but sort of). I feel like children everywhere tend to have this ridiculous sense of entitlement that everything their parents have should just be handed to them when they move out. They don't seem to get that we worked our BUTTS off for it. Honestly, I'm more afraid of messing up my kids because of what we have - not because of what we don't have. The world doesn't need a billion world-class gymnasts. We need a billion hard-working, selfless children who understand that you get what you WORK for and that this world owes us nothing. I say, praise God for your new neighborhood and the opportunity your children have to see that the world is not all roses and free handouts. They'll be better for it. I promise :).

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  58. Sue, I'm revisiting this. I surely struck a snotty tone with that comment I made. But I've trolled through what other people had to say, and what you've written. You've changed, you know. Not too much. Not in any way that weakens you at all as a writer - and as a person (as far as any such conclusion can be made, with this little interface we have). Your sense of humor is still wry and razor sharp. But you are - no. Maybe this isn't the place to say these things.

    I understand about university. I look at the way things have gone - I honestly don't think I could have gotten into BYU the way it is now. I don't know what my GPA was - I was National Merit qualifying, evidently (that's what they told us in New York), but I didn't have a clue what that meant. I just felt - ordinary and average. Never popular. Plain old good-girl. Not spectacular in any way that I could see. So I think of myself as a 3.2 student. I'd have been buried in the acceptance process now.

    But I have some serious questions about all this. We once considered buying in Highland. But it felt funny to me. I loved it that it was country out there still (we're talking about twenty eight years ago). We were looking down in a kind of river-cut, heavily treed place where Paul Dunn had a house. But we couldn't really want to be there. Nice houses. Very nice. But off-putting.

    Alpine fit us better, artsy and quirky as it was back then. Still, we stayed put in the little house on the river here (worried every dang spring), in a neighborhood that's only charm is that the landscaping has grown up on our street, so we look very homey.

    What you're saying about Highland high sort of shores up my weird feeling about the place. This almost hysterical need to achieve - what is that? You're going to get into the Celestial kingdom by this kind of merit? I don't understand it. Pushing children, racking up awards, bragging rights - everybody intense and exhausted. Training these children up with the idea that being the best at something and having the most means something significant. It really troubles me. It's so shallow. And so, I honestly believe, unhealthy for the children.

    We have a relative who moved out there to Highland a few years ago. A good family. Good friends. But they have money. Over six times what we will have to retire on, even counting the insurance I have on my parents and the legacy they’ll leave and the savings I’ve been seriously working on for thirty three years. Theirs is the smallest house on their street, a bigger, much more classy house than ours. At the far end of their street, there are castles. Great, stone, fancy dancey houses that ascend the hill like successful dowagers on a staircase. These places do not move me.

    The weird thing is this - I've had like three conversations, all independent of one another, one involving a salesman at the RC Willey outlet store, all with the same odd theme: how our recent ancestors have put so much sweat and tears into “giving our children a better life than the one we lived.” And yes. We don’t want our daughters looking sixty (not that I’m going to mind looking sixty next year, because by then I will have become far more mature) when they’re twenty eight, or dying in childbirth, our children unable to read or subject to demagogs and local power-mongers. Nor do we wish them to starve because of a bad local summer for the crops.

    But what do we hope for our children’s lives? Really?

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  59. You and I both know that money can give you the illusion of safety. Having nice things is an even deeper illusion. And money can give you a level of safety that being without it certainly does not promise. But how much money do people really need? I think what fuels this ridiculous “Occupy” movement is the conspicuous over-abundance that some people have amassed – thanks to their own wit and acumen – or (these days) to their parents’. That so many high profile people have so very much more than anybody would ever need in a lifetime. And when you read about the lives of these people, so many of them – their money doesn’t protect them from death or guarantee them a drama-less life. That’s a simplistic observation, but one day it hit me as an epiphany – rich is really – REALLY not equivalent with safe.

    So I wouldn’t want to live in Highland. I know there are wonderful people there. But I don’t need that pressure. And I don’t need somebody setting bars for me. I have my own standards, and I’m happy with them. And they are SOOOO much “lower” than the Highland High thing. But I don’t think God thinks they are SOOOO much less worthy than that, either.

    That is thought one.

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  60. Thought two is even worse. I am beginning to question the value of university. Actually, I am not beginning – this has been my feeling now for decades. I graduated with a BA. Went back for a Master’s. Quit when I landed a high school teaching job (after years of trying). When I looked back at the money spent and the time invested and summed up what I had actually learned from the school, I came up with a very unimpressive result.

    If I had chosen engineering or computer science as my study, I’d feel differently, I’m sure. But the liberal arts thing was all hot air, theory, posturing, oh-so-wise analysis of art, and of what people should think and feel – how society is SO short of the wisdom and the insight the rest of us educated folk enjoy.

    And what did my education do for me? May I admit that I sent my own children for these benefits: experience, a space of time between childhood and adulthood, and exposure to a gene pool populated by people who at least tried hard enough to qualify for acceptance, you can sort of assume they know how to work and think at least a little bit analytically. The last point is by far the weakest.

    I was not prepared in any way to go out and make a living. Or even to make a meaningful contribution to the world, even on a small scale. The LDS training made up for that last bit, but I could have gotten that anywhere – and for free. I was exposed to egos, masses of rhetoric, and a whole lot of other kids who, ironically in light of what we now know about adolescence and the morphing of the brain, were running around unsupervised making stupid personal decisions and doing really stupid things and sometimes damaging their lives severely in the process.

    I’d love to see my children doing meaningful work, work they can really get their hands into, making enough money to stay afloat, pay for emergencies and save for the future – happily married to someone who is satisfied by beauty, having just enough, loving, being alive, serving others and being free to think, read, sing, and mow the lawn. None of that requires a degree. Only our one-up-ya culture requires a degree. Unless you are learning something real. Some skill. A science. A technology. Law. Medicine. Engineering. Something that has meaning. I’d love to see the university strip itself down to things that rise above the function of historical cultural preservation. And “lessons,” the kind we buy for our kids, sound like cream filling in that light.

    And this: My first semester at the Y cost $245. Can you believe that? My last son’s undergrad tuition is about ten times that. I was making $2.45 an hour at the time. Now, they make $8-10 an hour. Opportunity cost becomes way out of proportion.

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  61. Third thought:

    The 10000 hours? Those weren’t a matter of parents pushing children to practice. You couldn’t have pulled Bill Gates out of that computer center with a backhoe. He found the opportunity for himself, grabbed it and made something out of it. A child who has to be made to practice (after the first year) is not going to be great. Great people do what they love. They can’t be stopped from doing it. That’s how those hours get racked up. It was that way with my husband. And with me – as far as writing and teaching – and, it turns out – so oddly - , parenting go.

    The opportunity is the magic there. Seeing their parents do something and finding out that they want to do it too. Being exposed to different kinds of things – things outside of their own family micro-culture. A kid from Salt Lake who grudgingly took Chem his senior year of HS because he was down a credit and that happened to be the hole in his schedule? He’d never considered taking that class in the past. But he got pushed by circumstance into the experience and the following spring won a national student competition, accepting his award in DC. Because once he got a taste of the unknown thing, he grabbed it, loved it, thrived in it and nobody had to tell him to practice.

    We need to give our kids opportunities – let them see different jobs, listen to the native skills in their hands, teach them to think outside of any boxes, to have imagination – to see functions and solve problems. They don’t give lessons in these things, and sometimes school helps that way – but sometimes it doesn’t.

    Is this long enough yet? You should have taken me up on the lunch deal, eh?

    Anyway. There. An hour of my life. My gift to you today. I mean – if it turns out to have meant anything.

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  62. 1. I haven't checked in for a while and so glad to find you and glad you are feeling better about life.
    2. You have way more advice than you need, but let me add that kids are okay without all those opportunities. When my kids hit the teens, they found interests and they earned money to pursue them. One became an awesome snowboarder in just a couple of seasons and got a job at Park City as instructor. Another excelled in auto mechanics and had some great opportunities through school. Another is excelling at rock climbing. My only daughter got involved with horses and now works as a wrangler every summer. None of these activities relate to the "lessons" they might have had could I afford the time and money when they were younger. You can't go wrong with lots of traipsing in the mountains. (and there is no such thing as inappropriate levels of love for the mountains.)

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  63. So, I've been thinking about this post today (delayed reaction, yes), and I thought I'd share something with you: Julia Child didn't start cooking until she was 37. (Did someone already say that? I haven't read the comments in a while.) So, you know, your kids will be more than fine.

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  64. Another of my pets has been peeved in one of the recent comments posted here.

    1) I find it a limited thought to think people should not amass "more than they ever will need in a lifetime". That is a selfish belief to think we should only earn as much money as we need. We live in one of the greatest lands in the entire world. If I only earned $5,000 a YEAR, I'd still be wealthier than 92% of the earth's population!

    We have a responsibility to earn as much money as possible to help lift and bless as many people as possible: people who will never have the same opportunities to provide for their needs because of constant war, famine, dictatorship, disease, and disability. Why would the LDS Church or any non-profit organization ask for donations for charitable projects if they honestly believed we should only create as much money as we need to take care of ourselves?

    2) To believe that most wealthy people are self-serving is a belief rooted in ignorance. It demonstrates the limited experience one has with wealthy people. Money is a tool. Why judge someone on how many tools they have? How is that different than judging someone by how little in resources they have?

    3) Money DOES provide safety, which is why charities and churches ask for it. Money provides safety from hunger and homelessness. It provides the best medical care, really fun life experiences, and rewarding gifting opportunities. No, money does not remove the human element of this mortal experience, just as poverty does not remove pride and judgment.

    4) It avails nothing to speak haughtily of those who make a lot of money. Believe me, I've been honest-to-goodness-living-with-roaches poor, there are those living under the poverty line who believe the middle class is just as greedy, clueless, and extravagant as the middle class judges the upper classes.

    It's nuts what good people will accept as fact about people who are different than they!

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