Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

Take Your Kids to the Race Track and MMA Fights…It’s Good For Them

pokerI figured something out the other day about kids.  It’s really important to take them to as many weird places and events as you possibly can and I’m not talking about Wal-Mart and Burger King.  Take you little kids to rodeos and poetry readings, library’s, museums, plant nursery’s yoga studios and  and blues Festivals. If you have little white kids go visit a African American Church. If you have Asian babies take them to a Cinco de Mayo celebration or Hispanic grocery store.  Take your kids to odd ball places that are not part of their comfort zone so they are comfortable everywhere they go on this beautiful little planet of ours.

My family lives in a rural, red-neck,  predominantly white community in Arkansas. But I don’t want my kids to feel like that’s the only place they belong. I don’t want them to think that’s the only place they can live.  I want them to go further than the Dollar Store. I want my children to feel comfortable and confident no matter where they are, no matter what door they walk through. Southern or Yankee, rich or poor, educated or not, artsy, athletic or enlightened, I want my kids to have the ability to talk to anybody, no matter how different they might seem

So, I take them to demolition derby’s, jazz festivals, art galleries, Black History Month celebrations and mma fights. We go watch the horses run at Oaklawn Race Track and concerts with bell ringers. I try to expose them to all kinds of people and events and traditions so they will grow up knowing how expansive the world is and how many choices they have in life. Who knows what their passion and love might be. And if I don’t get them out of our little white-bread neighbor hood they might miss it completely.

When folks go to unfamiliar places and are surrounded by strange people it can be scary. You don’t know what to expect, so you cross your arms and look mean. When you feel out of place or unwanted you might be paralyzed with fear. Don’t do that to your kids.

I know it can be a nightmare, three year olds melt down and do that embarrassing worm thing on the floor. Four year olds want to touch everything, especially expensive things, that are easily broken. And five year old want to run….fast….all the time so taking them out in public is a little like running a 5K, But you need to do it show them this world so they are brave and excited to jump right in.

There are some places you might want to avoid. Terrorist meetings, Nazi parties and I shy away from Scream-o concerts because I don’t want my kid to turn into a scream-o terrorist Nazi.

And  one day, they will rise up, pound on their chests, put their hand in the air take and hold of their shining destiny. Hopefully, though they don’t do that in  public. That would be really embarrassing.