As a follow-up to last week’s post about driving Hugh to school all too often, I’m happy to announce that yesterday I entered his room at 6:30 and said “Time to get up, Hugh, since you’re WALKING to school today.” And he did – he got up and he walked to school – cheerfully. And Malcolm caught the bus – on time. Thank you, guys, for making me look like a successful mom! Let’s expand this beyond a one-time event.
This whole discussion set me to thinking about the areas in which we succeed and fail as parents.
Almost nobody is entirely great or entirely terrible at parenting. Most of us, I would wager, are a unique admixture of both (I’ve always wanted to use the word “admixture” in a sentence). (I assume it means the same thing as “mixture.”)
We know families whose children ski like angels but hold their forks like savages. Parents who dress their children beautifully but feed them horrible chemical-laced junk. Moms who profess to care only about their own families but are constantly criticizing others. I repeat: nobody is perfect – or perfectly consistent.
I first had this ephiphany when a neighbor, who had had too much to drink, said to me “You and Chris are the CHEAPEST people I know!” He didn’t seem to mean it as a compliment.
Since my husband and I had just returned from a two-week trip to England with all our sons plus my mother in law, I found this statement puzzling. Especially since the guy who said it was the father of many children, and when he and his wife would go on vacation, they tended to take one child at a time for long weekends within driving distance. It was a lovely tradition that gave their kids a chance to be an only child for a while. But it was also, I couldn’t help noting, far cheaper than moving a small army, plus car seats and strollers, across the ocean and back.
Mulling over his outrageous statement, I came to a realization. We are all cheap – and we are all extravagant – in different ways. No doubt our neighbor was failing to factor in that because Chris and I are self-employed, we pay for our own health insurance. We don’t have a cushy benefits package. Our vacations are not paid holidays. We are self-sufficient, and therefore, yes, less inclined to throw money around. Some might view us as cheap. But only in some areas.
We have always viewed travel as a worthy expenditure. Our kids have been to Yellowstone and Yosemite, to Prince Edward Island and the British Isles, to San Gimignano and St. Louis and San Francisco, to Kansas City, Columbia, Missouri, Quebec, and Key West.
Other expenses have had to wait. The restoration of our 1901 house has been a long, slow process. We paint, update, and renovate as funds permit. After living with only one full bathroom for five people for 10 years, we finally added a master bath – and we did it (mostly) right, without cutting corners. It pays daily dividends.
Three years after the bathroom addition, we gutted and rebuilt our kitchen/dining room – which also makes daily life much more of a joy. Now, the neighborhood waits with bated breath to see when we will knock down our ancient shabby stable/garage and rebuild a far swankier two car garage with man cave above.
Most of our neighbors did similar big improvements when their kids were much younger, but they have more conventional jobs, and steadier benefits.
On the other hand, we value our independence and our simple, 30 second commute, greatly.
So yes, it’s fair to say that we are cheap, but it’s not as if we’re misers, hoarding money for the sake of being Ebenezer Scrooge, or Scrooge McDuck. We’re not diving into a warehouse full of coins.
As a final semi-non sequitur, let me just say that Chris and I long ago stopped going to BJ’s or any similar supermegasavingsstore. Why? Because we find such places to be utterly soul-destroying. So hey, we’re extravagant in that we refuse to belong to a buying club.
All of which leads me to ask you to complete the following statements:I am cheap and/or extravagant in the following ways: