As I work on this blog, I find myself reflecting more and more on my financial journey to date. I’ve come to see that so much of my thinking about money was shaped by my parents’ ideals and values, and I am incredibly thankful to have parents who are so smart with money. So frugal, really.
See, as far as I can tell, my parents have always known what they value: family, friends, time spent together, fun experiences, education, culture. They’ve spent their money in alignment with these values, choosing to go on family vacations instead of buying new cars, or pay for my summer art classes instead of eating out more frequently.
While I appreciate this so much now, I know that I didn’t always. So this one’s for you, mom and dad. I’m sorry for not appreciating your frugality as a kid. I’m sorry I was such a brat.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Remember when we visited New York City and walk everywhere? I do. I remember seeing Broadway musicals and visiting great museums. I also remember walking what felt like miles and miles (although surely it was not) and longing so desperately to get into a yellow cab that would take us to our destination quickly and painlessly. I remember not understanding why you refused to pay for a cab, insisting instead that we rely on our own two feet. I’m sure I complained. I’m sure I whined and said I was tired/hot/cold/hungry/all the other things.
Remember all the other families on our block who had stay-at-home moms? I do. I remember how the kids in those families stayed home all summer while we went to summer camp. I remember how you were always there for my school field trips and parent days, yet somehow it always felt like a sacrifice that my mom worked. I remember complaining endlessly about a business trip that took mom away during a high school dance. I’m sure that I made mom feel guilty about it for weeks, and made dad feel inadequate for not being able to do my hair.
Remember how all my friends’ families had SUVs and I guilted you into buying one? I do. I remember how mom hated that car so much but drove it for years and years because it worked and made me happy. I’m sure I still wasn’t happy that it wasn’t a real new car, just a used new car. I’m sure I was sad three years later when everyone else had another new car and you still had the same old one.
Remember how we ate dinner at home most nights? I do. I remember some of my friends’ families going out to dinner regularly on weeknights and thinking how fun that seemed. I remember incredibly delicious and healthy meals made at home, but I also remember wanting to eat out more often, instead of having to eat that home cooked food. I’m sure I asked to eat out often, and I’m sure you were annoyed at me for always asking, and frustrated at most often saying no. I know now that no one likes to say “no” all the time.
Remember how I used to have a hand-made quilt on my bed, until I asked for a “real comforter,” you know, a store-bought one? I actually don’t remember that one, but I remember hearing the story told and re-told. I’m sure I thought that hand-made things were yucky and that nice things come from the store. I’m sure you were sad that your hard work went unappreciated.
This list could go on and on and on, but that is not the point.
The point is that I remember. And I’m sorry.
See, I was a brat. I didn’t understand. As hard as you tried to teach me about money, I just didn’t get it. I understood money only as far as my wants went – I understood that I had an allowance and I could use it to buy a new shirt or go to a movie. I didn’t understand that money has to pay for needs, too.
I didn’t understand how much it costs to take taxis all over New York City, or that you really get a much better experience by walking. I didn’t understand how hard it is to make it on only one salary, how expensive life is, and how much you both had to juggle to work and raise us kids. I didn’t understand what a waste of money a new car is. I didn’t understand that while it might seem inexpensive to pay for one person to eat out, it is a lot more expensive to pay for four people to eat out. I didn’t understand how lucky I was to have people who cared enough about me to make me something by hand.
I’m sorry that I whined, complained, guilted, annoyed and otherwise frustrated you. You tried so hard to be smart with your money, and I’m sure it must have been endlessly annoying to have these little people constantly trying to derail your hard work.
I’m sorry, but also, thank you.
Thank you for teaching me that it doesn’t matter what everyone else around you is doing. It doesn’t matter that this person bought another new car and that person eats out four nights a week. Most of those people don’t have their financial act together. But you did. You understood. And now I do, too.