Thursday, August 6, 2009


We had a five hour seminar on the effects on children of living in poverty today. I have gone to one of these before, so there was really not much new information today. It is still valuable information to be reminded of so that we can understand our students.
Our school has about a 70% poverty rate, so we were discussing the majority of our student body.
I think when I talk to my students about my childhood and my years of raising children, I have surviver's guilt. My parents were lower middle class, but my home was a very stable, secure atmosphere. I may not have had what I wanted to eat, but I had healthy, good meals. I was born when my parents had been married for 17 years, and when I was 3 we moved into a large 4 bedroom home with 2 bathrooms. It was never beautifully furnished or decorated, but it was warm and safe. I always had running water, electricity, warmth in the winter, and after I was about 12 air conditioning in the summer. We never had a brand new car while I was living at home, but our car was in good repair. We didn't go on vacations, but we often had relatives come to visit us from out-of-state. Occasionally, we went camping or to Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, for a brief vacation. My dad was self-employed, so he just couldn't take off much. My mom had a full-time job from the time I was in 4th grade so that we could have health insurance, but she scheduled her day off on the day that I had Campfire Girls because she had always been one of my Bluebird/Campfire leaders, and I wanted her to continue. I was somewhat bratty when I reflect on this now.
During the years I was raising my kids, I always juggled our finances so that my kids had what they needed. They had school supplies, basketball shoes, cleats, and ball equipment, clothing (probably not exactly what they wanted, but what we could afford). They had their own vehicles when they turned 16, and we were able to pay their insurance and school expenses. I got myself into a bind with a credit card occasionally, but I have no credit card debt now, so I recovered. I know I probably should have told them no more often than I did, but I didn't do too much harm to them.
We went on a few vacations together, not as many as I would have liked, but summers were always so busy with school activities. We go snow skiing once each year now, so to some of my students, I come from a world they can't imagine. When I was in school, I had a friend whose family went skiing every winter and to Mexico in summer. I never dreamed that I would be able to do that, but I could today if I planned carefully.
All three of my kids have had to learn to do without some of the things they had growing up. Right now neither of my kids have television or internet. When you live by yourself, you don't have anyone to split the luxuries with. Guess what, they are surviving. They watch movies, listen to music, and have access to computers at OSU.
They both have friends whose parents pay their living expenses while they are in college. I would if I could, but that's just not an option for us. I help them when I can, but I am very proud of their self-sufficiency. They both have good jobs for college students, and they are dedicated to their responsibilities.
The thing that resonates with me is that parents should sacrifice for their children. If I could tell them anything about choosing a mate, it would be to look at the potential mate's family dynamic. Whether they grew up rich, poor, or middle class, did their parents sacrifice their time, money, desires, everything for their kids? I remember telling my mom that she needed new glasses because hers were old fashioned. Her response was that she didn't get new glasses until she couldn't see through them any longer. She sacrificed for us. When Jason was going to Conner's, he asked me when I was going to get a new car because the one I was driving had been my mother's before she died. He called it a grandma car. It was an Olds 98, it drove like a dream, and I didn't have a payment, and the insurance was cheap. I didn't tell him, but the amount I was paying to Conner's every month would have made a car payment.
Again I have a little surviver's guilt. My family was uneducated, and both of my parents were raised during the depression in extreme poverty. My dad said that he never left the table full during his childhood. My mother got a pair of shoes for school each year, and she had to go barefoot when she outgrew them until the next school year started. Why did they get out? I could have been one of those victims of generational poverty, but my parents worked their way out of it. Dad's goal was always that none of his children lived on the dole. I didn't understand that when I was a kid, but I get it now.Thanks Mom and Dad; you make me very proud.

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