My first chore, after cleaning my room, which doesn’t really count as I was the only beneficiary, was mowing the lawn. We had a push-mower. And the first time I mowed, I took precisely an hour and a half, with three breaks for beverages, and a short session of stretching. I had two blisters. I was ten. It was, frankly, completely fucking awesome. And it coincided with a raise in my allowance from $5 every other week to $5 every Friday. That was practically a fortune. I would be independent in no time.
Possibly that was the last time I enjoyed mowing the lawn.
Yesterday afternoon, Gavin asked me if I was poor.
“Why are you asking?”
“A kid at school asked me if you were.”
“And what did you say?”
“I didn’t really know an answer, so I just went on with what I was doing.”
“What does poor mean?” I asked.
“It means when you have a little bit less money.”
“No, poor means not having enough money to get what you need. Like food. Or clothes. Or shoes. Or medicine. We have everything we need, and stuff we just want. We aren’t poor.”
“He didn’t ask if we were poor. He asked if you were.”
Why did this conversation upset me? It did. I was upset for twenty minutes afterward. Really, class? We’re slamming into class in first grade? But I must have been kidding myself. Of course we’re slamming into class in first grade. Class is everywhere; we rarely have discussions that don’t include class. Where we eat, how we dress, where we shop, how we prepare our food. Where we live. Whether we water our lawns. Whether we have lawns. Whether we own multiple vehicles. Whether we buy new clothes, new furniture, new new new. Whether local means anything to us. Whether we support businesses where employees don’t get health coverage. How we define poverty. How we define education. How we define work.
I don’t know why some little kid asked if I’m poor. Maybe his mom is poor. Maybe he worries all moms are poor. Maybe he was trying to figure out what poor means. Either way, it’s an important conversation to have with G. I work to have what I need. I work so my family has what they need. I work because I love it. I work because I have the opportunity to work. I don’t do anything I don’t enjoy. I don’t work for anyone I don’t respect. I’m lucky, and independent, and grateful.
4 thoughts on “Chores”
It’s a great definition, the one you gave him. I’m going to remember it.
“I work because I love it. I work because I have the opportunity to work. I don’t do anything I don’t enjoy. I don’t work for anyone I don’t respect. ”
These statements (to me) prove that your worth and wealth come from something that has nothing to do with money. And yes. You are lucky. So is your son.
….and as I think about this more (as someone in a similar situation as you- divorced, shared custody, ex-husband with a higher income than mine) I realize that maybe that kid was basing his observation on the simplest of things: the car you drive in comparison to your son’s father’s car or his parents’ car. The clothes that you wear in comparison to his mother’s. A lack of makeup and designer handbags/shoes/clothing… Maybe that kid lives in a world where fashionable material things define a person, and you threw a curve ball at him..? I get judged based on that stuff all the time. I have no desire to wear high heels or heavy make up to my sons’ schools and often, I feel like an odd ball.
It’s funny, Tina, the mothers at G’s school all wear yoga outfits. They seem to be in yoga outfits when they drop the kids off and yoga outfits when they pick the kids up, as though they spend the school day stretching. I’ve realized the question was about the kid asking, and not about me, but it’s amazing how it broke my brain open. I read this report years ago that said kids generally have no idea whether or not their parents have happy sexual lives, but always know whether or not their parents have financial stresses. These days, I imagine that is even more true. We talk jobs everywhere now. Class is the subject at hand. Even when you’re six.