“Your tears are black,” my son says in surprise, pulling away from my hug.
I get to tell him how mascara works.
I don’t mind my son seeing me cry, although I don’t cry often which is probably why he’s shocked. I’m less okay that he’s just overheard a heated – and let’s face it, at moments ugly – conversation between his father and I. About money. Which is really about stress, and security. Which is about Trust, which is about Faith, which is about seeing the world as it is. And now my boy, my nine-year old, he runs through the house ridding his wallet of change, and “bottling” up some maple syrup to sell. “I want to help you find money,” he tells me now. “I can shoeshine,” he tells me.
I’m still crying but at least I have the sense not to cry over this too, not to be maudlin my kid gets to go through this. I sit down on the little speaker-amp in our warm kitchen and I put my arms around him. “Little dude,” I tell him, taking a deep breath. “You have one job, and it’s to be a Little Guy. That’s your job. It isn’t your job to give us money or to try to find it. Your parents are grownups and they can handle the money stuff.” I tell him. I can feel him relax a little – thinking about the job of being a Little Guy, probably. He puffs up a bit. He can be a Little Guy.
Money trouble means you can’t keep shit all tidy. As much as you might try. I’ve got a sense of purpose and dignity though. I don’t apologize when paying for gas with change and I don’t apologize when we find ourselves in some ridiculous scenario (I could name five this last week!) – as long as I haven’t wronged someone by being there. Not-apologizing and not-blaming are the practices that keep me grateful, keep me grounded. Helping others – it keeps me grounded. Taking help when it’s offered (I could name five times this last week!) – keeps me grounded.
There is so much letting-go involved in financial and food insecurity. Faith and letting-go are part of the process, like a dance, and sometimes you get that wobble. Now I warm up the car and I take a deep breath. I gotta be careful not to get addicted to the hustle; to live my life such that if one day I don’t have to hustle, I can step gracefully into that new life. I hear people say you can get addicted to Drama and I get it. Drama keeps us distracted, tells us our Plan is a good one, or a necessary one, or that we can let ourselves go because Suffering, or all the above.
Driving off my little guy is speaking to me and I can hear him, because I can take those deep breaths. I tell him It’s okay Nels. We won’t let you down. We never have. Promise. We turn up the street and he’s relaxed fully; into a local shop selling computer scrap. Nels takes some candies from the jar and I run up, then down the stairs, leaving the box behind. I get down to my son in his little knit cap and I’m the Luckiest Woman on earth.
Thank you, Kelly. I just started a brand new shiny job and I’ve paid for my lunch in the sparkling cafeteria with quarters on Monday and then nickels and dimes yesterday and today. Payday is 10 days off. Just hanging on, hoping, sad to have traded away time with my kids. I love them up so much, as much as they’ll allow, when I walk through the door at night. It’s been so hard and I often feel like I’m the only one of my friends who’s still struggling financially. The way you talk about this stuff means a lot to me.
Your comment touches my heart. I know what it’s like to “sell out” my kiddos, one way or another… every parent who is honest with themselves knows it happens, even with our good intentions, even with how fiercely we love them. They hardly ever mind it as much as we do! Take heart as you are working hard to be a good provider and mother. These kinds of choices are tough.
You’re not the only one struggling. Many people just can’t be honest about it, especially publicly. They have to carefully frame the discussion. Would you believe it I really pore over these posts when I write them. Trying hard to be honest about my experience. I write here to help myself and to help others. Because I know we are not alone!