What do you say dear?

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by MorrisonCorner, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    Do you remember that children's book? It was supposed to teach manners. "You've been doing loop-de-loops over the king's castle and accidentally lose control, crash through the roof, and land on the princess's birthday cake... ruining it. What do you say dear?"

    "I'm sorry!"

    Personally I think "oops!" would have been more likely. And then "I'm sorry!"

    As adults, especially adults making the decision to downsize or making a choice to leave a well paying job for a lesser paying one but a rural lifestyle, I'm sure more than one of us has been confronted by the impertentnent remark from a peer or friend. The "couldn't hack it?" kind of denegrating slam. But we're adults, and while this might bruise our feelings we are adults, we can form some snappy comeback. If the downsizing was not voluntary we can use the opening to ask if the person being nasty has heard of a position more suited to our talents, etc.

    Now let's role play as if we were children.. specifically 7-10. Those charming years when pecking order on the playground is being established and when not being like your friends can be very painful. Let us imagine that the sudden drop in economic status was unintentional and unplanned but probably long term. And let us also imagine that the parents have not explained the situation to the children because they don't want them to worry. We can debate the wisdom of that as well, but...

    You've always had ballet and jazz dance class lessons with your friends. The classes alone are $300, but that's the tip of the iceberg... there are shoes, costumes... it seems like every other week the school is sending out another notice to the parents saying the kids are required to purchase (through the school of course) this or that specific item. Always in a new color so clothing can't be handed down from one class to the next. It is part of the experience, these little new matching costumes. The girls love them. She's been in these classes with her friends since age 4 and she doesn't understand why suddenly she can't be. Her friends are asking why she's not in the class. What do you say, at age 8, dear?

    Her friends are into American Girl dolls. You guys were fantastic.. I knew every doll on the planet couldn't cost $80 a pop! But you women are also well aware of how brand aware this little girl's friends are going to be. Would she be better off with, say, a jointed teddy bear or Amish doll, which is absolutely not like an American Girl doll? And when the other little girls remark on her doll not being "right" what do you, at age 8, say dear?

    It kills me to look in those big brown eyes and see the hurt and confusion. The "current literature" says that children should not be part of "adult discussions" by which they mean financial issues. Personally, I think this is utter nonsense. I think that children need to know what is going on, it is the not knowing why everything is suddenly different that stresses them... not being told "Mommy and Daddy can't pay for these things any more, and furthermore we're all going to have to work together to make ends meet." I think they're denying their kids the experience of being part of a team, making things happen for the family... but that is their choice. And the so called "experts" in the literature agree with them.

    Meanwhile.. what do you say dear? We all know how nasty children can be to each other... any suggestions for explainations, retorts, something, this little girl can shoot back when someone remarks that her clothes, her doll, etc, aren't "right" any more? Any suggestions on what she can say to "explain" why she can't go to dance classes?

    By the way... I am simply (and irrationally) FURIOUS with that dance studio. It is set up in such a way that only very wealthy little girls, or little girls with parents willing to beggar themselves for "the dance," can participate. Money up front, everyone has to have the same little outfits, the studio is an unfeeling money making machine running on the insecurity of both parents and children. GRRRRRRR
     
  2. coalroadcabin

    coalroadcabin Well-Known Member

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    A 7 year old is certainly old enough to take part in the family's budget meetings. Even if parents are as wealthy as Bill Gates, the kid should be part of that process. Understanding how money works and what the family income is would go a long way towards making it easier for the child to accept that she can't take dance classes because they just can't afford it.

    Solutions?
    ~Parents get their head out of the clouds and get the kids involved in the family budget.
    ~Find another dance studio OR ask the studio if they offer scholarships (our local ballet studio does - so it wouldn't hurt to ask)
    ~Talk to the parents of the little girls 'best' friends, make sure that her 'best' friends understand that she can't afford to have the newest clothes, the newest toys, the coolest vacations, etc. When you're 7-10 years old you can handle just about anything as long as your 'best' friends stand behind you.
     

  3. AngieM2

    AngieM2 Big Front Porch advocate

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    If the parents are willing to work, and the school will consider reduced rates (scholarship) she could get back into dance.

    I know I put a child thru competitive ice skating for 3 years with no outside financial help...The skating school offered a 1/2 tution scholarship via skating club, and I was offered to work ticket/concossion stand during school and one public skating time. It was for one winter season and lasted about 4 years... After 3 years she was good enough to get a partner and his parents offered to pay all expenses...

    So there may be a way - and I did dance and daughters did ice skating. Ice skating makes dance look inexpensive.

    There may be a way. But I do understand about looking into those hurting big brown eyes.

    Angie
     
  4. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I suspect that these are not the type of folks to ask for a scholarship, that would be admitting some kind of financial trouble---and the truth of the finances is the very core issue of the divorce, and mom doesn't want to face the music, right?

    Aside from removing her from that "Jonesy" clique altogether, I'm not sure that you'll get anywhere. And if you do try to explain to child mom may cover it with "she doesnt know what she's talking about"

    A vicious cycle of over-indulgence, over-spending has been set into motion and the child has been allowed lofty material expectations....( my sister is going thru this---she has no sick time and has missed work from her illness and lost lots of pay....but still has daughter in Dance, Piano and Theater)

    Perhaps broadening her horizons about how poor some of the world's children are and how Hiefer Project and even Oprah are helping those poor children who may not have one doll to play with or crayons to color with....let alone enough food to eat.

    What do you say, dear? See how lucky you are in comparison to the poor soules of Africa... :shrug:
     
  5. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    Took a phone call from the father this morning... yikes. I hate the sound of a man in anguish. But I took your advice. Told him to call the studio back and explain firmly, and without appologies, that the financial circumstances had changed and that they could no longer afford to enroll her in these classes, but that she very much wanted to continue. Can they come up with a workable solution? I'm waiting to hear if it worked. This little girl simply can't be the only one in this situation.

    I like the suggestion to broaden her horizons. And I absolutely agree that a kid of 7 is old enough to understand budgets and limitations. If, however, either parent goes against the accepted "wisdom" of the "child experts" and has this discussion with the kids I guarantee it will be used against them in the custody fight. She, he, anyone. She is perfectly comfortable with this... she still doesn't understand how money works. We are not even going to talk about how much she spent over Christmas... I couldn't figure out if in my role of friend I should have expressed absolute horror... or kept my mouth shut. I opted for mouth shut and a studied neutrality.

    He wants to have this discussion but is afraid if he does it will be used against him.

    Me, I've got my fingers crossed for "scholarship." Or other workable arrangement.

    I have to say.. I wish my grandmother were still alive. My grandmother paid for "anything educational" which meant all the extra stuff like ballet lessons and my fortuitously brief flirtation with horses. I never appreciated how much that cost her, but figuring that ballet lessons today are pretty much the same cost (inflation adjusted) as they were when I was a kid... she shelled some significant cash to keep me on my little pink toe shoes. My grandmother was not a well to do woman, and now I'm wondering where the money came from.
     
  6. Pouncer

    Pouncer Well-Known Member

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    My son is 7, going on 8. He has known for years about the "value" of money. Of course that perception is changing as he gets older. With one notable exception, he has to earn his activities, or toys, or whatever. When he used to ask for things at a store, I was right up front, we don't have the money. It's too expensive. Or, not right now, maybe another day. He has also asked how come we have to work. I bluntly tell him it's so that we can have this nice house, and good food to eat, and heat in the winter, etc.

    Now I am sure he doesn't really get it-budgeting, managing finances, etc, but I think money is something kids are never too young to learn about. I know my parents never had much, and never taught me anything more than how to count change. I was woefully unprepared, to put it mildly. On my son's birthday, we are going to take his change bank and count out all the funds, start him a passbook savings account so he can better understand interest and savings.

    We do not let our son have the expensive toys, and at this age (thankfully!) he isn't into labeled clothing (another gripe of mine) or trendy things. When we wants a X box or a Game Cube, I just tell him that he has enough friends with them. All he has is a Leapster.
     
  7. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    You know... the don't-get-money thing.. how many times have we seen someone say "my SO doesn't get it?" This isn't a "kid thing" but it sure is a "problem thing." I just wish there were a way to manage this "thing" so even though it was disappointing and hurtful blame didn't get laid on anyone's doorstep. It isn't anyone's fault that money doesn't fall out of the sky.
     
  8. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think my kids were 3 or 4yo when I took a bunch of pennies and showed them how many pennies a gallon of milk cost.....
    I've never been afriad to say "we cant afford to spend your college money on that kind of stuff"
    When they do choose to buy something at the store with their own money... I also insist that they buy enough for everyone in the family to share if its food or something that we all will enjoy (a movie).
    One time they each got ice cream money from my parents...I showed them that if they pooled the money we could get a gallon of ice cream and cones and have ice cream all week instead of one time at the "parlor" ...I think they were 6 and 7 then...
     
  9. Faustus

    Faustus Übernerd

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    Reading this thread actually made me de-lurk in order to comment.

    First, on the dancing thing, that's extremely common. I took ballet for a while as a kid, and my mom refused to enroll me in the school where a lot of my friends went precisely because of all of the recitals, costumes and so on. On top of the actual cost of lessons, it added up to a lot. The poor woman was already paying for violin lessons, so she wasn't going to shell out for that, too. I wound up taking lessons with an old Russian lady who had trained a bunch of people who went onto professional ballet. She was old school, but a really good teacher, and I probably got more out of it (and for less) than at the regular place. It didn't really matter, in the end, that I wasn't going to the same place all of my friends went.

    I also had a friend who was really serious about gymnastics. Her parents split up, and money got tight. Her mom was able to work out an arrangement where she helped clean the gym in return for a break on fees. My friend was able to stay with it through the rough patch- I think any place worth its salt will have something like this available. Also, you said she takes both ballet and jazz. Would it be cheaper for her to do just one kind of dance, whichever she likes better?

    On the situation in general, my father got laid off when I was seven or so. Money was, as you could imagine, pretty tight. I remember my mother explaining to me why we had to get the cheap brand of stuff, and why we maybe couldn't have this or that toy. It was a little hard, but I understood why things were as they were, and my parents tried to cushion the problem by scrimping in other areas so that we kids could still take our lessons and stuff. In fact, I think there was a conversation along those lines- we can keep buying you toys and goodies, or you can keep taking violin lessons. You can't have both. It was a sort of hard lesson to learn, but I understood. I think talking to the parents of her friends could be good or could backfire- I could see kids who aren't very nice throwing, "Yeah, well, your family's poor!" at her, which wouldn't be good.
     
  10. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    When I was about ten, my dad's job was unionized, and then they went on strike. Mom didn't work, so my parents and their daughters were living off of a very small savings. My baby sister was about five. Even She knew not to ask for anything, that money was tight. We did a lot of joking at how well we were eating while we were poor, though. My folks had decided to buy a side of beef when the union went through, 'just in case'. So, we were poor and eating steak.

    My kids were raised with financial discussions at the dinner table. They were assigned drawing up the family budget as a homeschool math project. Each child was required to spend a year managing the household expenses.(By mid-teens...not as young as the kids you are dealing with) By that I mean they had to track all income and expenditures, write out checks to pay the bills, balance the checkbook, etc. They had to bring the books to us for inspection and check signing. They had to record and file all statements.

    My daughter was such a clothes horse that we put her on a clothing allowance by age 12 or 13. She had to save and watch sales to dress the way she wanted for the amount she was allowed...but she learned to do it.

    Kids understand money. Even as toddlers mine were learning to count change from purchases made at the flea market with their quarters. That's how they learned their numbers...practical usage. Kids understand the lack of money, too.

    And kids, I think, are scared by knowing 'something' is going on, but not what it is. Kids always think it's 'them'. They are sure they did something to cause whatever it is. I think it's easier on them to know the truth...that it may affect them, but they didn't cause it!

    Meg
     
  11. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    When my kids started to feel this kind of pressure, it came in this form:

    --Why do all my friends have a bigger, newer house than us?
    --Why can't I join the $200/month USAG gymnastics team?
    --Why can't I have an American Girl Doll like all my friends?
    --Why can't we go to Disneyworld/Hawaii/a cruise etc. for vacation like McKenzie does?
    --Why can't we go on 2/3/etc. vacation trips a year like Kelsey does?
    --Why can't I wear designer name brand clothes like the other kids?

    So...I explained. We could do all of those things, but it would require giving something else up. I could work full time someplace and they could hang with a sitter all day.

    But wait...McKenzie's mom doesn't work. Kelsey's mom only works part time. That excuse didn't wash. The obvious "problem" was that Daddy doesn't make a comparable salary to their daddies. Oh well.

    The first thing we did was to find them comparable stuff and activities at a more reasonable price. Let's take pride in our house and make it the best we can even though it didn't cost $300K. Join the YMCA gymnastics team instead, which is affordable and perfectly respectable even if not officially USAG. Let's research alternative vacation destinations and do interesting things, learn things, have adventures! And we CAN buy designer clothes at the consignment shop. Actually, I like them better than knockoffs; they wear and fit better. Sometimes. So what if they're used?

    Then...we moved. Yes, the main intention was to get a bigger place with more land, therefore satisfying the "homestead" desires, but also we liked the social changes. Some of the people here ARE wealthy, just as much if not more so than the old neighborhood. But just as many are not, and our house is HUGE by their standards. The kids, therefore, have the experience of seeing how these other families are just as happy living in a small 1950's tract home as the ones living in $500K McMansions. It's all a matter of perspective. Sure, their rooms are smaller and they have to share more, but everybody has problems just the same. Money can't fix that.

    And the truth is, sometimes you gotta just suck it up and admit that life isn't fair.

    Maybe what your friends' family needs is a serious change of lifestyle. I know they're already in serious turmoil right now so additional upheaval is even scarier, but it sounds like it's crucial to their survival. The kids are probably going to be MUCH more adaptable than anybody could guess. I suspect oftentimes that the sadness and disappointment kids lay at parents' feet when they can't have what they want hurts the parents a lot more than the kids. I don't know how many times my own children have wailed about something that was CRUCIAL at the time and 2 hours later they were bouncing around singing a little tune...yet I stewed for days.
     
  12. Zipporah

    Zipporah Well-Known Member

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    I don't see where alittle girl going to dance lesson is a cycle of over-indulgence if they could afford them at the time.If I understand correctly things have changed now for the family.

    I took dance lesson and gymnastic classes at that age. I never knew they were so much. :shrug:

    The main problem is a family has broken up and terrible as it is a judge has made a decision that the finances can not be discussed and this is doing a disservice to the child. I can not see how the father can take control of the problem under these circumstances.
     
  13. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I could be wrong but I think MC has stated in the past that the reason for divorce is Mom's living large on the credit cards and when the husband asked her to pay attn to money it created a rift/split in the "family".....as mom felt she was entitled to live at a certain level....beyond their means.

    I do agree that the judge has blinders on if he thinks its a dis-service to be honest with the children about money.
     
  14. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    I'm thinking there has to be some sort of judicial logic to the "can't talk about money" thing.. as someone pointed out in the doll thread talking about how "we can't afford anymore" might lead a child to leap to the conclusion "it is my fault, I was so expensive, if I hadn't wanted this or that..."

    My understanding from the literature is that children automatically assume breakups are caused by something they've done. I would imagine a kid could develop a seriously unhealthy attitude towards money if they thought their "cost" was the reason for the divorce. Tangentially it was: she spent, even when they were together, more than could be afforded on toys and extras for the kids (documented toys alone at over $100/month). But kids aren't born with expectations.. parents make expectations. Hers were too high for the resources available and the stress broke him.

    Which brings us back to the crucial question... how do you talk about limited resources, in this situation, without a child making that leap to "my fault," and without violating the court order?

    To remain competitive Dad has had to open a new office... I wonder if the new office could be leveraged as a reason for why there is less available for other activities? Would that be legal?
     
  15. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    YES! its very important to make sure that the children do not feel at fault...

    BUT! its aso very important to teach the difference between wants and needs, income and outgo...its part of teaching respect, responsibility and being conscientious....

    I do understand that divorce law is written to say that everything should be done to continue the children's standard of living.....but obviously the judge needs to be made aware thru financial records that the standard surpassed actual income and was the major source of conflict.

    Certainly the kids see that Dad is living well below his standard and how can he explain that to them? Or have they not asked?

    Sounds like Dad is not allowed much above slave status here.....how sad...
     
  16. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    I think the children are very aware that Dad's standard of living is precarious in the extreme but they have either been told, had it suggested to them, or made the childish leap in logic, that this has something to do with them. The other day during a snowball fight Dad stepped around a corner, away from sight. The boy realized he was gone, couldn't see him immediately, and completely freaked out. Sobbing hysterics freaked out. "I thought you were gone, I thought you'd left us, I thought you weren't coming back..." hysterics.

    I think the tenuous nature of Dad's living arrangements (basically out of boxes so he can move at a moments notice), the lack of "toys" and other visible anchor between a child's world and dad's world, is definitely contributing to the children's feelings of anxiety and stress.

    And yes, I think the financial thing needs to be seriously reconsidered. The support is temporary support, and as I understand it, the courts do want the children to have their standard of living "maintained" during the inital phase of the breakup. But it isn't sustainable. By spring Dad is going to have to have a stable place to live because the "perch in the guest cottage" solution is going to run out. And rent will be a minimum of $1200/month with utilities and overhead. That's money that has to come from somewhere, and I expect it will have to come from her support. The expectation is also during this phase that a registered nurse will use the temporary support period to get a job lined up and get back to work with a cushion to help her get the routine down. She appears to have chosen not to do that.
     
  17. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    GOSH! as a registered nurse she might be able to get a sizeable signing bonus to boot w/o putting much effort forth----some people just don't live in the real world.

    I think Mr. Rodgers wrote a book about divorce for kids that your local library may have...

    Here's a good list by age...

    http://www.stahancyk.com/resources/books/familylaw/b_preschool.cfm
     
  18. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    Oh, totally awesome, thanks.