Ah yes, money. Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen for the bane of every social situation and the elephant in the room that loves to make everybody feel awkward. In fact, what’s the only issue more awkward and contentious than money?
Your parents’ money.
For the privileged children among us who always had the latest gadget but never questioned (or flaunted) it when growing up, we have retained a certain amount of guilt for having had a fairly painless childhood. Indeed, it’s reached the point of accusatory looks that many of us will feel reticent to even admit to using said money. It might be controversial, but the fact of having money or being euphemistically ‘comfortable’ is not something that I should have to spend my days apologising for, or ignoring. Being wealthy in itself is not a crime or sin, and it shouldn’t impact how parents with varying access to money are assessed.
It’s silly to associate emotions with material goods.
However, it’s the gesture behind that gift which is key – the generous spirit, the care and the selflessness. Money can be used negatively and in a shallow spirit. However, it can also be used for parents to engage with, learn about and support a hobby or passion. For example, my father spent money on me when we both supported our local soccer team. Here, the money fuelled acts of communal interest, watching TV matches, and going to stadiums, and getting the team shirts. This made me feel like I belonged within a community, and provided access to friends and skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have stumbled across. I love him for showing me his passion, and including me in it.
As long as your parents don’t write you a cheque every week while they abscond and leave you with a nanny for 18 years.
There is a middle ground grey area of privilege that must be negotiated in which money is a useful and caring parenting tool. However, it is by no means the only tool, and successful parents must be judged on the memories made and life skills imparted – irrespective of the issue of money. Having money is not the same as throwing money at a child and hoping they turn out okay. I hope we all know that. Indeed, while the memories that serve us for life aren’t necessarily forged in the influence of money, we do our family a disservice to be ashamed of or quiet about those experiences that were.
We all live different lives, informed by our various experiences and struggles. To pretend that money is the root of all evil and that its very presence in a person’s life impacts whether someone was a good parent or not, is ridiculous and unsatisfying.
I will not apologise for my parents having and generously using their money in my childhood.
I will not patronise my peers who grew up differently by erasing it and pretending to understand all that they may have in turn struggled through, but I can open up a dialogue and learn and educate myself.
I was lucky to be blessed with a great family who had money, but they weren’t great because of the money. It remains hugely unfair that some people lack the means to live and others have much more than they need, but we can’t solve that by erasing it or making sweeping judgements.