I had thought to write an amusing post about my kids’ antics. It was a rainy day, and they built a blanket fort (actually, a CASTLE, my daughter informed me) in the den, and had crazy imaginative play for hours, and got a little bit wacky and punchy with each other at times. So a few hours back, I got out my laptop, ready to tell the tell of their silly verbal exchange while they were supposed to be brushing teeth before bedtime: “You’re a dot-com.” “No, YOU’re a dot-com.” I don’t know where they get this stuff.
But by the time I got to the point of posting, my sense of humor had largely left me. I learned today about some dear friends who are having a big moving sale next weekend. They’re an older couple, almost empty-nesters, whose kids were once my babysitting charges. And now? They’re “downsizing.” A creative euphemism for selling most of their stuff and finding a cheaper place to live, since he lost his job and hers likely won’t suffice. They have a nice house, not extravagant. Big enough for their family when I babysat, although since most of the kids are independent now, I guess that’s not such a concern. That’s if you’re thinking logically, unemotionally – a fairly difficult task for me at times, particularly when it comes to home and family.
What do you say when this happens? When you feel terrible, and wish you could just make it better for them and the hundreds of other people in similar positions in this town? On the one hand, I pull back when I see their youngest talking so openly about his family’s difficulties on Facebook – I guess that’s a hangup from the way I was raised – but I am also glad that he can talk about it, and get so much support from his friends and those of us “old folks” who are on his friends list. Sure, the kid’s a bit of an over-sharer, but then I know this must shake the foundations of his world: his siblings have left home, and most are out of college with jobs, even full-fledged careers, and just as he prepares to leave for college, the rug gets pulled out.
Not to mention how his parents must feel, how they must worry. They’re intelligent, caring people, and yet here they are, stuck in a situation that, frankly, sucks. I’m concerned for them, and worried about how they’ll manage, but mostly my response is a selfish one.
It could so easily be me.
There but for the grace of God go I. Like so many families in this one-horse town, dependent on an industry that’s flailing in the economic slowdown, we’re treading water, trying to keep our heads up. I no longer have a job, and while my husband does have a job, and a good one, it’s still very difficult for us.
I hate making sacrifices, giving up things that I want – not so much things for myself, but activities and experiences I want for my kids. I wanted them to go to art camp, dance camp, museums, festivals – so many things this summer. But instead we’ve been working with what I can do for them at home, or with family. Instead of art lessons, they’ve painted with watercolors on the carport. Instead of dance lessons, my beautiful daughter has made up her own dances and tried, vainly, to get her brother to dance along. They’ve played dress-up and pretend, had “camp-outs” in our room, and gone swimming at the grandparents’ house. I hope that, during the school year, I can start sending her back to ballet classes. I was fortunate as a child. I had lessons, and opportunities, and I want more (the same is not enough) for them. But I think I’ll need to dig deeper, relying on my own creativity, to make this happen.
Beyond figuring out ways to make sure my kids lead the sorts of enriched lives I want for them, I also keep thinking about stability. The thought of my own kids going through the uncertainty and worry that my former babysitting charge is experiencing scares me. I want to figure out some way to make sure our future is as secure and stable as possible. But I don’t know how possible that really is.