This was the response I got from my 5 and a half year old, when I told her that we didn't have the money for her to take more swimming lessons.
After the shock of her comment wore off, I got to thinking... do I have a spoiled brat for a child? Or is this the pandemic of today's youth, growing up with a sense of entitlement without any concept of the hard work required to get the things we want in life? It's hard to say because she is only 5.
I will be the first person to admit that B has it easy. She really has no concept of how good she has it and for now, at least, I am at a loss for how to explain it to her. When she is older, I can drive her down the streets of Skid Row or introduce her to children that don't have all that she has in the hopes that she will better understand just how good her life is, but at this age, it is hard for her to grasp. Last December, after the usual glut of birthday and Hanukkah presents, we sorted out 5 or 6 of the new things and donated them to Toys for Tots. She decided what to donate, helped me load the car and went with me to drop them off. But it was just a drop off at a local fire department station - no faces to put to the children who would receive them, no concept of what her donation was doing.
I joke that I was a deprived child and that I had a low income childhood. By today's standards, I probably did, whether it was because of a lack of technology or just a lack of money. Kids today have a hard time grasping the reality in which my generation grew up - a reality which did not include iPods or iPhones (or really even cellular phones, for that matter,) a reality in which video games were not the norm and most kids went outside and played the day away. There was no Facebook or MySpace and "chatting" meant standing somewhere face to face in real time, talking to another human being that you could actually see. There was no such thing as "texting" (and certainly not "sexting!")
My own reality was even more bleak (as some kids might tell me) than that. We had a color television but no cable, leaving us with the 3 major networks and if we were lucky, the Fox station on the UHF channel. We had a radio which had a record player and an 8 track tape player built in. We did not have a "boom box" or cassette tapes until I was in junior high (at least.) I didn't get my first "Walkman" until 6th grade and even then, mine was just a radio. The grocery store was where we got cereal and bread and canned goods. Milk came from the cows in the barn and the vegetables came from the garden that we spent the summer in, picking weeds and watering.
I was not given the opportunity to play sports in the summer through local community centers or "Parks-n-Rec," I played kickball or Red Rover with my cousins in my Grandma's yard. I didn't get to take piano lessons or swim lessons or dance or gymnastics or any of those things. I took trumpet lessons after I joined the band in 5th grade. I was 23 before I met Mickey Mouse face to face. This was my "deprived" childhood, but it was a happy one.
My 5 year old lives a charmed existence and she doesn't know it. Of course, I can't explain this to her and I certainly can't argue with her, because all she sees is the immediate loss of swim lessons. She can't grasp the fact that Mommy and Daddy's salaries pay the mortgage on the house that shelters her, or buys the food that she refuses to eat because there is mayonnaise in it, or the toys that she steps on and breaks, or the books that she treasures and loves to read to her baby sister, or the very bed where she sleeps and does alot of her reading. She has never wanted for anything (not that it is a bad thing) and is blessed to be surrounded by friends and family that shower her with love (and presents.)
So I continue to struggle with her. I struggle with explaining to her how money works and how sometimes we have to make decisions - do you really want to spend $60 of your hard-earned money on 1 dress-up dress, or would you rather spend the $60 and get 3 other toys? Or would you rather save it for something else another time? She can count, she knows her quarters from her dimes and that a quarter is 25 pennies. But she's still too young to grasp the fact that money doesn't grow on a bush in the backyard. (If it did, the rats from the air conditioner would surely have eaten it all by now.)
The only saving grace in this is that she can be distracted. I can turn the conversation away from swim lessons by asking what she did in school or showing her a new coloring book, or asking her to draw me a picture. I can engage her with her sister or throw a movie in the DVD player and for a moment, the swim lessons and lack of money to pay for them are forgotten. That is, until Papa asks how they are going and she explains to him that she's not taking them anymore because we don't have the money. Then we have to start this all over again.