“Give me the poverty that enjoys true wealth.”

25 Oct

They page through Christmas toy catalogs, eyes bright and wanting, yelping I want this Mummy and Maybe I could get this? Can I have this?

I snap at them to stop with the asking. I cannot hear it anymore.

I haven’t the money. I fret about Christmas, wondering about points and freebies, hoarding small things in the closet, warning that this year won’t be as rich as I’m told about how their father has made promises of this and that. I’m sure it’s nothing more than the vague whispers I give them sometimes, but it hurts all the same.

I know that things won’t bring them happiness, that it’s all just stuff and they are no less for not having it. But I stifle tears each time I feel the knife dig into my chest with the ask.

I cannot provide.


Growing up in a household where my mother stayed home, where one meagre income supported four of us, I did not lack. There was love where money stopped, and things weren’t horribly missed. But I remember that sense of want, the swallowing of the question since you knew somethings would just never ever happen.

I never wanted this for my children. I never wanted them to know they couldn’t have something because I could not give it to them. I should be able to give them anything, or at the very least more than I had.

I could not give them a family. And now, I cannot even give them things and somedays, it feels like my love is the impossible goal even, wrung out and tired of them as I am. I cannot provide to them on any level, and the chorus of wants for Lego is slowly, irrevocably, eating my heart to ribbons.

I am their mother. I shall provide. Yet the basket is empty, only full with the tears I shed in anger for my shortfalls.


It’s the accusation from a 7 year old, the eyes that tell me “you’re failing” when we walk past decorated houses and petulantly I’m asked “Why are we the only house without decorations” and despite reminding her the decorated homes are the anomoly, I still feel raw and frigid inside, incapable, lessened.

We scrape hand to mouth. We buy secondhand things, we use others until they fall to pieces, all things of which I am proud. And yet when she stares at me with sad eyes because all she ever hears is no, I lose sight and have another vision of poorer us, a trap I cannot escape from or evade.

And I just don’t know what to do anymore.


8 Responses to ““Give me the poverty that enjoys true wealth.””

  1. Hannah October 25, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Oh, we were that family too – the family where I just knew not to ask for some things because I would never, ever get them.

    I know it’s hard. I don’t have a solution. I wish I could offer more than just a sympathetic ear.

    But! As for the decorations – not just at Halloween – the boys and I get a package of construction paper and spend an afternoon making all kinds of stuff. Paper chains, jack o’lanterns to hang in the window. It’s so much more satisfying than buying things, it’ll give you an activity you can all do together, and it’s dirt cheap. (I realize this is totally unsolicited assvice. But seriously, some of my favourite childhood memories are of making holiday decorations with my mom and sibs.)

  2. slouchy October 26, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    i’m awfully sorry, thor.

    however — i KNOW you are raising girls who will understand that you did all that you could. if they don’t understand that at this moment in time, they will understand it later.

  3. Quadelle October 27, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    Our family had it all, but my mother would regularly scare the pants off me by saying things about how the bank could take it all away one day. They never did, but it made me too frightened to ask for most of the things I wanted, even when my dad was buying snow mobiles and tractors and mom was purchasing all the clothes for me she wished she could wear (i.e., dressing me like I was a middle-aged woman).

    As for decorations, Hannah’s onto a good thing. Homemade is cool. 🙂 We actually paint our pumpkins so we can still use them afterward to make pumpkin soup or roast pumpkin (yum)!

    Plus, you are doing the right thing by your kids. As Slouchy said, they may not know this now, but they will grasp it later.

  4. Marcy October 28, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    I knew that swallowed want, too, but mostly now I don’t feel that as a deep wound — it just was, and we really had it pretty good. No matter how much money there is, there’s always going to be the swallowed (or not swallowed) want.

    I second the suggestion to let them make decorations.

    And — hunt craigslist (there are search engines that will search the whole list, not just your area) for used Lego sets and the like.

  5. flutter November 1, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    Oh honey. I just wish I could hug you or help

  6. bipolarlawyercook November 1, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    I know how it feels and yet– you’re working and working and working and right now that doesn’t make a difference to them because they’re too small to understand what that means. Later, I hope, they’ll understand that the lack of material didn’t mean you weren’t trying, nor that they lacked for love, because it shines through in everything that you write here. Hopefully they will understand someday that the trying, the hard work– it is love, and that you’re doing the best that you can.


  7. thordora November 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    Thanks all. It’s not so so dire, it’s just…depressing. I don’t have time OR money for them.

  8. Tired of being Sick and TIred November 21, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    I used to have a very, very nice car. I used to live in a very, very beautiful and expensive home. I used to own lots of designer clothes. They were very swiftly taken from me. I did not earn them. I looked down through my nose at people who did not live up to my standards. I was foolish and young and ignorant and naive. I was empty. Something was missing.

    I am embarrassed about my car. It is old, it has big dents in it and sometimes it makes funny noises. But it is mine and I taught myself how to take care of it so that we don’t have to spend money on crazy repair bills. We live in a smaller house now, but it is perfect for us. I am not stressed about having to clean it all the time, smaller house means less mess and it is no less beautiful than the huge house I once slaved and struggled to keep clean.

    I do however, feel a stab in my heart every time I see a pretty car. And while I know that we are in a better place now than we were then, that pang still exists and never goes away.

    What is that saying? Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

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