One of the biggest mistakes we often make as parents is failing to realize our kids understand far more about what's going on than we give them credit for. As we walked around the store filling the cart, I made a mental note of how much the running total was. I was so busy counting boxes of cereal and cans of soup that I paid little attention to the shoppers around me. As we wrapped up our shopping and headed toward the checkout, my daughter, then six, chirped loudly beside me, "Mom? Are we going to have enough food stamps to pay for all of this?"
HORRIFIED! I looked around and, though in reality no one was probably paying attention to us, I felt like everyone in the store had to have heard her. I stopped the cart and knelt next to her and said, "We do NOT use the F word in public. EVER!" I could feel the heat in my cheeks and my eyes filling with tears and it only got worse when I saw her eyes well up too. She understood what food stamps were for. She understood why we needed them. What she didn't understand was why I was so ashamed.
To address the situation, I tried to explain that food stamps were like money and it's not polite to talk about money in public. Putting the burden of shame on her was completely unthinkable. I felt that we'd settled things and would no longer hear "the F word" from her mouth.
Some time later I realized that a caring relative or friend had submitted our name to a local care center. When Christmas rolled around, we woke to several boxes outside our door filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, a turkey, necessities, and a variety of small gifts for the kids. School was not yet released for Christmas break yet, and the next day my daughter took her new Walk Man and flip top candy dispenser to school.
When she returned home that afternoon, she excitedly told me that one of her friends brought a new Walk Man and candy to school too... she was quick to set my mind at ease by saying, "It's okay Mom I didn't talk about the F word but they got boxes too because they are poor like us!" Her smile was from ear to ear and I couldn't help but love her just a little bit more because she was capable of doing something I couldn't. She was looking past the situation and simply enjoying her blessings.
Things today feel so far removed from that place in our lives. While we haven't seen those financial stresses in many years, we still have our ups and downs. Most people, at one time or another, have something going on in their lives that they aren't proud of. We all have our burdens. Most people have some sort of "F Word". I hope everyone has someone to remind them that no matter what today looks like, what tomorrow might bring, and how bad it seems, you're not alone. Enjoy your blessings.