Rich kid, poor kid

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Not long ago, I read an article about “stupid” habits people tend to develop as a result of growing up poor.

Some of the habits I could relate to more than others, but what the article really did was get me to relive the scarcity in my life. It also made me wonder if I was going to be one of those parents who says things like, “… when I was a kid, we didn’t have toys. We had rocks and sticks and we were happy to have them!”

It also made me marvel at how naive I was as a young person about life in general. Not growing up with things can make you go “Whoa!” when you actually see those things in real life – things like your friends not only having their own beds, but their own rooms, too!

The first time that happened to me was in the fifth grade. I went to the house of my friend whose family owned a dairy. Their house was big, but I just assumed they kept cow-related things in there. When my friend asked if I wanted to see his “room,” I didn’t know how to react. “Sure,” I said. We left the kitchen and entered a gigantic room that sort of looked like our living room because it had a TV (a much bigger one) and some couches (as in plural).

My friend, Scott – or “Escot” as my mom called him – then headed up the stairs while I stayed frozen in my tracks, thinking about how we could actually play football inside this room. Stairs? I had never seen stairs in a house.

After checking out his room and his “things,” his own things – like his very own clothes, toys, underwear, posters – well, I freaked out a bit. Leaving his room, I saw a small kid poke his head out of another room down the hall. No way does this kid have his own room, too, and his own things! Yep, he did. These kids had won the lottery of life. I was freaking out on the inside, but on the outside I was like, “cool house, man.”

Then we had dinner – as a group – with place settings and matching glasses! Everyone got the same amount of everything. Not that we never had dinners like that, we just did it on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Growing up poor can hurt when you’re a kid and it can seem unfair, but, I also remember why we didn’t always eat dinner together. There were seven of us and my dad didn’t come home from work until after nine p.m., often bringing home food from the restaurant where he worked. My mom worked, too, and then she would make food that my friends would salivate over. It would all be in pots and, whenever we kids would get home separately from our games or from practice, we would load our plates and scarf down food that I long for today. Then, we’d run back out and play until around the time my dad would get home.

I didn’t feel poor, just different. I know now that we were, indeed, poor, and I know that my own kids won’t have those same experiences and routines I had growing up.


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