I had a conversation with my cousin the other day and she said something that furthered triggered some feelings that I had been having. We were talking about school shopping for her son and she stated how she now had to start buying clothes for her daughter, due to her father being incarcerated. I asked if his family helped her and she said that her grandfather typically buys her a summer and winter wardrobe every year. When she spoke to him, he said that it was too late for summer clothes and was there anything else she wanted him to get. She told him that she wanted her daughter to have a Bugatti toy car for her birthday, which was over $300+.
I paused. I said none of us are rich, so why would you have him buy her this toy car that she will only use for a few months. After we went back and forth about it, I said do your kids have a college fund? She paused, then said no. I asked why don’t you have him start a one, and she said girl he would look at me like I was crazy. So I looked at her like she was crazy, and I told how lately I had been feeling as if the adults in our lives fail to prepare us for becoming adults.
I asked her if she believed that she would be where she is in life if someone taught her certain life lessons, such as saving money, different careers that you could choose or if someone simply started a college fund for you? No, was her response. I said that I understand that there is no manual on life and how to live it, but imagine if someone told us that life is the hardest thing you would ever do. It is the one subject that always gives you the test before teaching you the lesson, but that we could make it through, by working smart and having a plan. Perhaps then we would have learned to plan. Instead, as Black Americans, many of us are shown rather than explicitly taught that as long as you look good and can mask any turmoil, then things are ok. We have been shown to equate material possessions with a false sense of safety and security in our personhood.
I understood that the Bugatti was not really for the two year old. It was for the outside world, to revel in another thing that means so much and yet so little. As kids we had an outfit for everything. We had a new outfit for Easter, the 4th of July, beginning of school, birthdays, whatever. And now as adults, we do the same for our children. But we have not taught them how to survive in this world. We have handed them down how to look good, but not how to feed your spirit or mental in order to truly be good in the callous world. I know its difficult to do something that you truly don’t know how to do or were never shown. But we can try. We can do something different, as we see the ways of old do not work. A child will always remember that awesome day he/she spent at the Zoo with his father, more so than a pair of Jordan’s.
As humans our affect on one another is what lasts way after the soles on our shoes have been worn low. But we must teach this to our children. When we fail to, we inadvertently teach them to value things over people and experiences. In turn, they will do whatever it takes to have those things, because it is what they value most. Lets pass down some new traditions, let us invest a portion of our wardrobe money into the ownership of property, stocks, college funds, savings accounts, and knowledge. If all things fail, we can pass down a game plan on how to handle life. Take all of your experiences, your actions and the results of them and show your children, how their road can be different.