Nurturing Responsible Privilege

Can it be done? I sure hope so.

While I still identify with my working class background, I also acknowledge the numerous privileges I have earned. My mother always let my sisters and I know that my parents moved us into our school district for the "better" education we would get. This wasn't just so we would get a good education, it was so that we would have better career options than our parents had and thus for our children to have a "better" life.

So here I sit with bachelor's and masters degrees in my fairly comfortable upper middle class life. wow.

What got me thinking about all of this were two things:

1) Our daughter came home with a note about an after-school science program. My husband asked her if she wanted to do it and she said yes. He immediately filled out the application and was ready to grab the checkbook to pay the almost $200 fee. WOW. I pulled out of Model UN and color guard camp for money reasons. Thus when I did get to participate in something it was a real privilege. One reason why I started working in high school was so that I could buy my own shampoo that was cruelty-free. My dad worked for a major cosmetic company (that tested on animals) and we got a ton of free stuff. The fact that we can pay for an after-school program without much thought is still breathtaking to me.

2) My daughter was skipping and jumping around campus on Friday. She said that it was her home. She was toting her notepads and crayons in a tote bag that I got in New Orleans at the 1996 American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Annual Meeting. Seriously, how many kids are this exposed to science at this age? At all? I was sitting, watching her climb and was overcome with jealousy.

I am jealous of all the things we will be able to provide her that I could only dream of when I was a kid. If she wants to go to Space Camp, done. Tennis shoes worn out? Let's head to the store. Sports lessons? Sure thing. What keeps her from being six with six different lessons is our desire to not wear her too thin.

In the same heartbeat I am proud that we can provide her with these things. We played by the rules: Worked hard, went to college and got good paying jobs. We have been rewarded - not richly, but just enough.

Now I'm pondering how do I raise her to value all these things that we can provide her? How to raise her with knowledge of how we got to this point without being all "when I was your age..." I feel like we're at this critical point in her development that if I don't figure it out, she'll grow up to be a spoiled ungrateful kid. Then again, she's such a loving and caring person that it's hard to see her turn out like that ever.

Perhaps living in an old home where we put plastic on the windows in the winter and still haven't remodeled the kitchen will help temper her own view of her privilege.

Note: I put better in quotes here because it's a value judgement. Was my childhood terrible? No. Could it had been better with more money in the bank? Maybe. Will my daughter have a better childhood? Can't say. But she will have more opportunities than I did.

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