Most of the things we enjoy are free. Our needs are met, the rest doesn’t matter. It would be nice to live in an actual house again. However it is not required.
We buy our clothes from Goodwill or Salvation Army or a handful of other thrift shops. We don’t necessarily do that because we need to. We have multiple reasons. People outgrow clothes faster than clothes fall apart. It makes practical, economic and ecological sense to buy used clothes.
However, the allure of certain things at Target does get to be too much sometimes. Multi-color neon cat leggings are obviously a necessity.
Most nights my daughter and I have a bedtime routine. She crawls into my bed at 7 p.m., and we discuss whatever is on her mind while snuggling and most often watching Chopped on the Food Network. Sometimes we end up only talking about the show, and that’s okay too.
What Is Poor Anyway?
Last week what was on her mind shocked me and then broke my heart. Two girls in her class were picking on her about living in a trailer. They were picking on her because she is poor. Where did she get her clothes anyway?
I tried to think and recover at the same time. I told her there are people that are much poorer than we are. I told her we have a house and food and clothes which is more than some people. Then I told her there are some people who live in big houses and have more food then they know what to do with. They drive big fancy cars and wear fancy clothes, but they are poor.
I told her “poor” doesn’t always just mean money. We have had many discussions about the fact that money is not everything and happiness is much more important than money. Sometimes it takes people a long time to realize that, but my daughter is already ahead there. She knows having money doesn’t mean you are happy.
We discussed that she doesn’t get her clothes anywhere different than most of the other kids in her class. I know for a fact that many get their clothes from Target, and we do too. We also like to go to Goodwill. I told her going to Goodwill means you are smart. You know that clothes get outgrown, and instead of spending lots of money on clothes you won’t wear long, you go to Goodwill. She immediately said her favorite dress comes from Goodwill. Yes, yes it does. That dress, by the way, still had the original price tag on it for over $60. We paid $1.49.
My daughter is already ahead. She knows having money doesn't mean you are happy.”
Classism Through a Child’s Mind
The next morning I still could not get what my daughter told me out of my head. I kept thinking about it every time I looked at her. My heart broke for her that she was having to experience this. My husband and I both come from similar backgrounds, and this was a huge issue for us growing up. I remember how I felt when other kids picked on me. They were picking on me for something that was entirely out of my control.
It didn’t stop me from feeling shame and embarrassment though. It didn’t stop my self-confidence from taking a hit. Worse, it affected my self-esteem. I remember vowing that my kids would never get picked on like this. I would make sure they had everything brand new and top quality.
I emailed my daughter’s teacher. I didn’t tell her I was going to, and I was kind of nervous about what her reaction was going to be. Was I only making matters worse by bringing it up? I had so many doubts, but I had to. I had to protect my baby even in some small way. I couldn’t let only my voice be the voice she heard on this. Her teacher assured me that he would address it immediately.
When she got in the car the next day, we talked about it, and she said she was glad the teacher talked about it. She was happy I emailed him. I didn’t necessarily agree with what was said, but I also am taking into consideration that it was filtered down through the mind of a nine and a half year old. I did want a different voice. A different voice doesn’t mean they have the same perspective as me, and isn’t that the point of having multiple people telling you about something?
It kills me that this is even still an issue among our kids today. Why? WHY can’t we get it through our heads that this kind of thing gets us nowhere. All it does is hurt.