Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not even if...

When we were doing the whole Open House-Orientation-Exam fandango for NOS at the Not-A-Middle-School, he noticed there were some mighty fancy cars in the student parking lot. Not merely nice cars (entry level BMWs and MBs and Audis; midlevel VWs and Lexi, oldish Porsches) but cars that cost a $#!+load of money by any reasonable person's standard.

Top-end Porsche Cayennes, Porsche Carreras, BMW 5-series, etc. That kind of stuff. (There were no Ferraris or Lamborghinis, which surprised me a bit.)

NOS made so bold as to venture a hope he would, upon turning 16, be on the receiving end of such automotive loot. That was, clearly, what the 87 layers of professional bureacrats who oversee teachers call "a teachable moment."

I advised NOS to set his sights somewhat lower. He wondered -- much like Nick Smith did in Metropolitan -- if our "resources were limited."

Aha!

"NOS," I began, "It's not that. To be sure, our resources are not limitless. But that's not the point."

I explained to him that when someone gets whatever the Hell they want, especially if whatever the Hell they want is expensive and/or rare, at a tender age, it warps them. It fosters a sense of entitlement and often a sense of elitism. That you deserve things because you're just "you." Not because you've earned them or merited these things as an extraordinary reward, but just because you were there and your parents could afford these things.

Which, as modern statistics clearly indicate, is not how life works.

"Furthermore, even if we won the lottery," which at the time the prize was $65M, adding piquancy to my point, "do you know how much your life would change, NOS?"

He shook his head, the ignorant child.

"Appallingly little. We might get -- finally! -- that little beach place we've been threatening to get since forever, and we might have one or two silly sports cars to the fleet and maybe an extra trip here and there. But that's it. That's the grandiose, sum total of existential change to which your life would be subjected if all of a sudden we had that additional $65M land on our laps."

"Oh," he said, clearly disappointed in his choice of parents. "So what does this mean about my getting an electric guitar?"

Pause.

"Only if I can find one cheap on eBay."

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:43 PM

9 Comments

  • Blogger blackbird posted at 3:36 PM, May 15, 2008  
    I am compelled to interject:
    as the mother/wife of several guitarists I must say - eBay is most definitely NOT the place to purchase a guitar of any kind.
    Craigslist MAY be okay, but only if you know a LOT about guitars.

    Feel free to contact me if this hypothetical conversation becomes reality.
  • Blogger HEATHER posted at 4:58 PM, May 15, 2008  
    EXCELLENT!!!
    Now if only I could get you to give the same lecture to my husband and then drill it in to his thick skull, because he is certainly doing his best to warp our little one.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 5:02 PM, May 15, 2008  
    bb,

    At the moment, I'm just trying to:

    a) avoid giving NOS my electric guitar, and
    b) I'm trying to avoid paying anything more than a pittance for his, and
    c) I want time to have some real mastery of the acoustic guitar before I go dropping coin on anything else.

    But be on standby.

    -J.

    P.S. Heather, tell him it's CHEAPER my way and that the money he'd spend warping the lad could be better used when your husband is in need of a good nursing home.
  • Blogger Stomper Girl posted at 10:16 PM, May 15, 2008  
    Now you've got me pondering how much our life would change if we won the lottery. My feeling is that MY life would change, in that we could own a home and afford holidays and fancy tap shoes and the like, but my children, like yours, would not see a lot of difference. Seeing as how I am fully in agreement with your entitlement lecture and all. It's possible they would get slightly more lego though.
  • Blogger Frogdancer posted at 10:20 PM, May 15, 2008  
    I'm so on the same page with you on this!!
  • Blogger meggie posted at 3:56 AM, May 16, 2008  
    To be totally shallow here, we used to say our lives would not change, should we win lots of the readies.
    Now we are old, we dont care, & we say it bloody well would change, a helluva lot!!

    Our impressionable young ones have flown the coop of course!
  • Blogger Joke posted at 7:07 AM, May 16, 2008  
    You'll note I asked NOS: "do you know how much your life would change, NOS?"

    Which is not to say we'd be ascetic gazillionaires, but two things conspire against becoming Donald Trump-like in our patterns of expenditure.

    1- I am congenitally cheap. Ask Poppy or Badger, who've known me longest. Other than the odd bespoke suit or jacket, I'm wildly frugal.

    2- Living in SoFla, you get an idea of what wretched excess looks like and I don't like it. I'd rather buy a little something right on the beach than a ginormous McMansion, and I'd rather have 3-4 interesting old sports cars than any new Ferrari.

    So my life would change somewhat more than NOS would notice, but not a whole bloody lot. Granted, if we had to beg for crumbs of bread from the plutocracy, the change would be noticeable but we are blessed to not be in this position.

    So, in sum, I am tasteful, frugal and virtuous.

    -J.

    P.S. This is all subject to change if I ever manage to have $65M land on me from a great height.
  • Blogger bluemountainsmary posted at 6:12 PM, May 16, 2008  
    Again you save me time and effort - I will just read your post to my kids if this subject ever comes up.

    Re electric guitar - Will got one for which he had to save up and I am just happy that he is passionate about it and practises daily and it has inspired him to want to get a good accoustic guitar - again for which he must save up.
  • Blogger Caro posted at 11:40 AM, May 17, 2008  
    I wish more of the parents around here were like you.

    My daughter is getting a laptop for HS graduation, what we consider a decent gift.

    Her friends, of course, already have laptops. They are getting cruises to Hawaii (and probably BMW's too).

    Even if we could keep up, I doubt we would.
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