Unlike my own early childhood, living with a single mom on a teacher's salary, I didn't think my kids would notice the differences in the way people live in our middle-class world. At least not until my daughter hit that magic, "I need those $100 jeans" age and I had to disappoint her, and probably embarrass her, in front of her friends. Sure we live in an urban environment and see people holding up signs asking for help, and my daughter volunteers by making sandwiches for homeless people in need, but looking up the economic ladder was not something I was prepared for at this young age.
Yet, it's happening. My daughter goes over to people's houses and comes home wondering why we don't have a swimming pool, or a second story on our house. Which is somehow much more complicated than explaining why we drive a car instead of carrying our belongings with us in a shopping cart.
While you can explain someone who is living on the street by saying, "This person is having a rough time in their life right now," the same does not go for the lack of a media room in your house. You're not having a rough time if you can afford a house. Just because Taylor's house is bigger, does not mean that you come from a destitute family. So it's tricky explaining that our family does not have the money for a birthday party at Disneyland, yet we're totally fine, and not in danger of having to live in a shelter.
Forget about the "why" of the matter. Does Jackson's daddy work harder than your daddy? Ummmm. This is where all those lessons on hard work paying off can come back to bite you in the ass. Any discussion about what career paths are more lucrative, financially, will probably go right over a small child's head. And if it doesn't, you've probably got a little Donald Trump on your hands. (Whether you think that's a good or bad thing, I'll leave up to you.)
So in the meantime, before a greater understanding of class is comprehensible, we just blow up our swimming pool in the backyard and let the kids play until they're too tired to realize they can't fit a raft inside of their pool. And reassure them that mommy and daddy are doing just fine, even if we don't have a summer house in the country.
How do you explain class difference to your kids?
Image via jimmyharris/Flickr