It was a quick response, even though I knew the answer would haunt me as he retold it to his friends at school.
Sage had just gotten back from having lunch with a former Cambodian Refugee, who, at my son’s age lived in a cave with his mother and had two items to his name – a spoon and communist kerchief.
I explained, “Almost everyone in this country is rich. We have places to live, food, and most of us have cars and televisions. Many children your age do not have these things.”
He disagreed saying everyone he knows has all that stuff and they’re not rich. I know what he means.
In this country, there’s always something more to have, always someone with better stuff. So, I tried to explain it as a ladder, telling him the story of the little boy who only had a spoon. That boy, still in existence somewhere, is at the bottom of our ladder and “Rock Star” is at the top. We are a few rungs above the middle, but make no mistake, I assured him, we are rich.
I had to swallow my pride here for this true lesson about money. It’s hard to look at your life, the way you’re spoiling your kid and yourself, and then talk about the kid with the spoon as you eat your Totino’s frozen pizza dinner. But what’s the alternative answer?
“Do we have more money than so and so?”
“I don’t know. Money’s not important.”
“Are we rich?”
“We have what we need and that’s all that matters.”
The minute something is taboo (I believe kids will see taboo right through these fluffy answers), it becomes inflated in importance. Besides, money is important, and when we refuse to talk about it, we give it more power than it deserves.