Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Motherhood: Messing it Up With the Money Talk

After a decade of stepmotherhood to a son, age 15, and 8 years of motherhood to a daughter, I'm pretty sure I'm still messing it up. I'm pretty proud of them, though, in spite of the stuff I've messed up along the way, they're doing just fine.

Sometimes, there are things that come out of my mouth in front of my kids and I think, "Did I really just say that to them?" It happened yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed.

I had a conversation with my little girl about super powers. It started off the same way I would start my young writers' workshop classes: an open-ended question type of writing prompt that would allow them the opportunity to expand their thinking process without any restrictions. So I asked her, "If you could have any super power, what would it be?"

Her answer was simple yet profound, just as I would expect it to be from an incoming 3rd grader. "I want to understand the language of animals and translate it to humans."

She explained the logistics to me, saying that she alone would be able to read captions in the air when animals made sounds, which would then be formed into words that only she could see. She would then translate their language into ours so that humans and animals would have a better understanding of each other. I was satisfied with the answer and expected to move the conversation along to another topic if she wasn't already bored with talking to me. She took it a step further, though, and asked me what I would want if I could have any super power.

Without even batting an eyelash, I knew exactly what I wanted: "I would like for my thoughts to be manifested into reality."

A pause. "What?" She asked.

I clarified. "Well, let's say I wanted a mango shake. There's no mango in the house, and we have to get the blender out of the shelf. I'm too lazy to go to the store and buy mangoes only to come home and make it. But if I had that super power, all I'd have to do is to think about a mango shake, and ta-da, it's there! I can drink it!"

I was pretty optimistic that it was a really cool thing. I could think of a bunch of stuff I'd want! "Let's say I want to be at the beach instead of sitting here on the couch. I'll just think of Boracay or Florida, and poof! There I am!"

She wasn't satisfied with my answer. She came up with various scenarios in which I would encounter problems surrounding my super power. She said, "What if your power only lasted for a day and you had wished yourself into a far away place? How will you bring yourself back?"

Then I revealed something in my response that could have possibly marked the first time she became skeptical of her mother's opinions. I saw it in her eyes. I couldn't take it back. I said, "Well, if I only had the super power for one day, I'd make sure I would think of having a ridiculous amount of cash and turn it into reality so that I can have money in my possession. Money can get you out of most situations, except of course, death."

What the hell?!? Did I really just say that? The look on her face confirmed it. Much to my pleasant surprise (Thank you, God) she respectfully used her words and her independence to have a very thoughtful debate with me. "No, Mom, that's not true. Money can't get you out of greed. Having that much money can make you greedy."

Long pause. How do I respond to that? How can I teach her that there is a fine line between using money to benefit your life and other people's lives, and being addicted to the power that comes with it? How do I tell her that in this world, opportunities come so much more often when you have the money? Is that even true? Am I the one who has misplaced values about money? Too many questions. I had to be mom.

As a mother, I needed to understand her thought process. She is very strong minded. She is a decision maker. She is confident. I know I don't want to mess THAT part up. I also know she is still developing her youthful idealism. Her values. Her moral choices. She is defending the values she has been taught to the very person who taught her in the first place. That very person is now contradicting herself.

I then reassured her that her mother wasn't greedy. I told her that I wouldn't really wish for a "ridiculous amount of cash," but maybe a "very comfortable amount of cash so that we could sort out any issues and still have plenty left over to live a good life and help others."

She agreed that it was a "normal" desire to wish for that and clarified in her own way of expressing herself that there was a difference between a normal desire to have enough money to live comfortably vs. just desiring all the money in this world and keeping it to yourself while the others do not have any.

Whew. Good save, but then she asked, "How much money would be normal for you to want, Mom?"
Oh for the love! I don't know the answer!!! Stop asking me questions. I will never do writing prompts with her again.

It was a good question, though. I'm curious to know what other people's responses would be. "How much money do you want to make you stop wanting more?"
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