Kids, Clothes, and Image
It was bound to happen. I knew sooner or later my daughter would come to me and
announce that everything we have worked so hard to give her is basically not good
enough for her. She went through her closet and counted six items of clothing she
has that were bought brand new. Those clothes didn't count though, she said, because
they were presents from other people. Never mind that most of her clothes look
brand new and have the same brand names on them that her friends wear.
Several weeks earlier and after a lot of searching we had finally found the coat
and shoes she had been wanting at our favorite consignment store for a total of about
$12 (she was thrilled at the time). The coat looks like it's never been worn and probably
cost about $50 brand new. But that's not good enough, she says. When her friends ask
her where she got a certain shirt, pair of shoes, etc., it goes completely against
her moral upbringing to lie (even though I told her to). She feels compelled to tell
them she bought her clothes at the consignment store or thrift store. I said, "If your
shirt says GAP on it, wouldn't you think your friends would assume you got it at the
GAP?" She didn't think that was very funny. I had a hard time believing that these
10-year- olds were really spending that much time analyzing each other's clothing
and social status. Then, if that weren't enough, she announced that the fact that we
live in a "trailer park," as she calls it, is totally demoralizing to her. People
"with money" don't live in trailer parks. That was the last straw.
This child is normally a very loving, considerate daughter. She prides in finding a
"good deal" when shopping and is very good at trying to find ways to save money. I
knew that something had just gotten into her that day and I had had enough. My feelings
were hurt, because my husband and I have worked very hard to buy our own home and be
able to afford some of the things we really want. That includes trying to find our
daughter some of the things she want, at affordable prices. She has never really had
to do without, even when I was a young, broke, single mother. Her words cut right
through me. I knew that I should have just ignored her and not let her get to me, but
my first thoughts to myself were "we can't help it if we're broke." I told her how hurt
I was, and she went to her room and I went to mine.
I thought about it for a while and reminded myself that I have also worked very hard
to get over the mindset of thinking we're "broke." Our bills get paid. We just don't
have a lot of money left over to do some of the things we'd like to do. The last few
months I've been changing image of myself and trying to figure out who I really am
and what I'm really about. I finally realized that I didn't need money to be happy.
I started to teach myself how to play the guitar, I started visiting the library more
and reading a lot more, and I taught myself how to make homemade bread. I've really
never been happier in my life. The "lack" of money hasn't really been on my mind lately
because I have found ways to nourish my soul that don't require money. Her words,
however, brought out old feelings that have never completely gone away. I started to
feel better, though, and silently forgave her, even though I was still hurt. A few
minutes later she came into my room and just looked at me. I said, "you know, what
you said really hurt me." She burst into tears and came over and sat in my lap. She
kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She told me how grateful she is for all the things
she has. I said, "Do you really think that your friends care where you buy your clothes?"
Amazingly, she said, "I don't know, I think it's just me." I couldn't believe it.
Suddenly I realized that she was going through the same thing I was. She was trying
to create an "image" for herself. I told her she needs to not lose sight of her other
interests, like her passion for reading and writing, and that she needs to have friends
who share her interests. I told her that I want her to learn some of the lessons now
that some people never learn, even after they're grown up—like what the important things
in life really are. And money isn't one of them.
Originally published at
Suite 101. Rachel Paxton is a
freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing
more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home
decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking at