Slow Mother Blog (May 2. 2012)
Two tears silently slid down Pacha’s cheeks this morning.
She was telling me about her dream.
In it whenever she asked me if she could buy something I said ‘no’, but her friend’s mother said ‘yes’, so her friend ended up with lots of new things.
Pacha says she just wants to ‘fit in’ with her friends at school and look like them with the modern clothing styles. Of course I started talking about where these ‘new’ clothes come from (China) and how they are made – and she became more upset and asked why I have to bring up all this stuff all the time. I stopped. I talked about how she had many more nice clothes (all secondhand) than I ever had growing up and that Mum made my school uniforms and they never looked like anyone else’s. She just looked at me. Then I talked about how we just have different priorities and value experiences more than things to buy. She said she knew all that but she just once wanted to have the experience of buying something ‘new’.
So, I said yes, of course, next time we were near a shopping centre, she could spend some of her busking money buying a trendy clothes item if she wanted to. A few minutes later Pacha apologised for being upset and I gave her a hug and said that it was completely normal to feel like this – we do live differently from ‘normal’ households in Australia.
It reminded me of another recent episode where a boy from her old school told her she was ‘poor’ in front of a few other friends. Her response was quick and positive; ‘well, if I’m so poor, how come we are going travelling this year?’ But it still hurt. (I think that being called ‘poor’ may be mocking of the last resort when other taunts (fat, ugly, dumb etc) may not get the desired result (power over)).
The truth is people could easily say we are ‘poor’. We have a tiny income compared to Australian standards, yet we have more than most of the world can dream of. We have a comfortable home, enough food to eat, and the most important things in abundance – health, happiness, purpose, exuberance, freedom…
The pressure of the global consumer society is intense and ever present. We all feel it wherever we are, even in the deepest jungle where the satellite TV feeds a constant diet of ‘bigger, faster, more’ thinking. The pressure to project an image of wealth and ‘success’ is all-important, and yet this more than anything else separates us from other people. As localisation leader, Helena Norberg-Hodge pointed out in a recent radio interview, when you get a new status symbol, it doesn’t make other people feel good, it just makes them feel envious and deprived.
The truth is (perhaps to make up for the limitations in our life) I do encourage my children to be the best they can be; in the athletic races, their dancing and singing, their surfing – with whatever they love to do. And when they excel I feel quietly assured that as a mother, I am doing the right thing (but also a little guilty that comparing ourselves with others still matters at all).
PS. there were a lot of responses on a facebook thread on this subject - if you want to take a look: https://www.facebook.com/anja.light/posts/2820775088124
(Pacha and Yani learn some new Hip-Hop moves at the 'Crankfest' in Evans Heads)