A grandmother was talking to me about her granddaughter whom we shall call Sophia. Sophia who is now 16 grew up quite privileged. Her father was very well-off and happily spoiled his daughter. Sophia has an older half-sister named Maria. Maria and Sophia have the same mom but have different dads. Maria vividly recounted Christmas in their household when Sophia was much younger. Sophia would be showered with dozens of expensive gifts, she would sit on the floor opening one present looking at it for 10 seconds then literally throwing the present to the side to move on to opening the next present. Maria said that there was no gratitude in Sophia’s heart because it was nothing special to her anymore….she could get those toys or books or clothes any time she wanted anyway. At least that was the truth until around 4 years ago. Sophia’s life took a dramatic turn.
Her father went bankrupt and their finances plunged and unfortunately Sophia struggled to adjust. Her grandmother said that they had viand that was meant to be shared but that Sophia decided she didn’t want to eat rice and just ate all the viand herself leaving none for her companion.
It was a minor thing. It however spoke volumes about her mindset and point-of-view. I do not blame Sophia at all. How can we expect her to know how to share when she hasn’t ever been asked to all her life. Money was no object in the past and so she never had to consider someone else when eating. Sophia grew up sheltered and now ever having to think about the cost of food or consider how consuming something at home could impact another person’s meal.
I couldn’t help but compare the same situation with my daughter Andrea. You see, my daughter was around 4 when we experienced our lowest point financially. Andrea was blissfully unaware that we were struggling but she knew about limited resources because we explained it to her. For example, there would be times when the 4 of us (my husband, my daughter, our helper and myself) would share 1 can of SPAM for dinner. The SPAM would be split into 12 slices and each of us would have 3 slices each. I distinctly remember one time when Andrea asked if she could have more. I explained to her that she could get one but that would mean another person would have less. She decided not to take one. From that point on, every single time we would eat SPAM (please don’t judge, we don’t eat it often but it is a guilty treat we do enjoy every once in a while) my daughter took it upon herself to dutifully divide the SPAM in order to make sure everyone had enough.
Fast forward 5 years later. We were doing a bit better financially (we could actually afford to open more than one can of SPAM for a meal hahaha) but the lesson of those difficult times still remains in our hearts and our daughter’s hearts. I remember just last month when we were eating chicken. There were 3 people eating and 6 pieces of chicken, my daughter has eaten her two pieces and I wasn’t going to eat mine so I asked her if she would want to eat another piece. She looked at me and said “But mom then you won’t have enough” and I told her I am fine because I preferred to eat more of the veggies than the chicken. She thanked me profusely and got her next piece.
I shared this story to my husband with tears welling up to my eyes. When we were struggling 5 years ago, our mindset was just survival and relying on Jesus we never thought of life lessons. Now in hindsight those times brought us so many blessings in terms of character development and life lessons. One blessing is the lesson we were able to impart to our daughter of caring for others and not only considering herself. I know for a fact that despite my good intentions and my training in parenting I would never have thought of teaching this lesson to my daughter. I had to teach her that lesson because we were in the midst of lack. Had we been experiencing abundance then, I wouldn’t have needed to teach her!
So I ask parents to find blessings in your struggles. Use your struggles as an opportunity to teach your kids life lessons particularly about resilience and faith and empathy.
(P.S. I just want to make sure to point out to make sure that we share the lessons to our kids without burdening them with our problems. There is a difference.)