During one of the many drives we take around town Jane asked me to buy her something expensive. I don’t recall what it was. It wasn’t totally unnecessary or out of line, it was simply something expensive and I cannot recall if it’s something we could not afford to chose to not afford. I don’t often tell the children which is which, rather I default to choice.
We are terrible about teaching our kids the value of a dollar because we have little respect for a dollar. The kids have allowance and a good but not incredible work ethic. When they run out of money I’ll give them the opportunity to earn more but I’m quite happy to buy them things they don’t need. A better mother might make them work for these things.
It gives me joy to give to my children and I fight internal battles every time I overindulge but they’re good kids. They’re very good kids so I know I haven’t spoilt them.
In any event Jane was asking me for something and I told her that we just couldn’t swing it and then joked about her being really really expensive (and for once I was understating the facts). She gave me some kind of face and told her I’d see if I could pick up a little extra work. This is when we had a surprising but long overdue discussion.
JANE: I’m sorry I’m so expensive Mom. [She is, in fact, not sorry but she’s wise enough to be sweetly apologetic. Maybe she could manage the Pantages Theater twitter account.]
ME: It’s okay honey, you’re a kid. It’s your job to be expensive.
JANE: I bet if you didn’t have kids you’d work a lot less.
ME: Nope, just the opposite would be true.
JANE: But you wouldn’t need as much money.
ME: People work for more than money. When do you see me work?
JANE: I don’t see it but I know you do it when we’re gone.
ME: If I didn’t have you guys [Alexander is in the car for this exchange] I’d probably work more. I’d probably go to an office every single day, come home late at night and take every opportunity to travel.
JANE: Really? Then why don’t you do that? [she was genuinely confused]
ME: What happens when I’m on one of my trips?
JANE: Nothing. We eat out a lot.
ME: How do you do when I’m gone?
JANE: Okay but sometimes I need you.
ME: How does your brother do when I’m gone.
JANE: He really needs you.
ME: And did you feel like you needed me more three years ago when you were the same age?
ME: I’m really happy to be home for you guys. I love you and being your mom is my job but with the way Daddy works we can’t have two of us working like that.
We talked more about the fact that I’m really lucky that work has been a choice. We’re all lucky that their Dad hadn’t been laid off and no one had to flip burgers on the midnight shift but that we absolutely would because the only thing that’s undignified is the refusal to work hard. I talked to her about diligence being more important than talent or intelligence and then I talked to her about homework and mascara and My Chemical Romance because really when you’re driving around town in your Mom’s hybrid you don’t really give a shit if she wants to work or not.
I think she heard me. All I can do is say it.