After all, it's just a name.

I remember the first day of school in seventh grade.  For one of the first times in my life, I actually cared about my "back to school" outfit.  I wore a black and gray jumper dress with a white baby tee underneath complete with white knee highs and black mary janes.  I think Britney got the idea for her first music video from that outfit...because I wore it first, albeit the modest Southern Baptist version.

Anyway, as I sat there in homeroom in my alphabetically assigned seat, the guy in front of me turned around and said, "Nice shoes."  I smiled and said thanks.  He said, "Are those baby doll Docs?"  I didn't even know what they meant so I said, "Sure.  I guess."  Then he said, "Okay, so show me the bottom."  Then it hit me.  Ohhhhh, he's talking about a brand name.  Considering mine came from Payless, I'm pretty sure they were not "Docs" (which I now know are Doc Martens).  I guess you could say this was my inauguration into realizing how much importance people put on a brand.  In all honesty, I think that's kind of awesome.  I was twelve years old the first time someone made fun of me or my things for not being "cool." 

I remember buying my first pair of brand named shoes.  I saved up money the summer before my freshman year of high school and bought a pair of Reebok classics with my own money at Marshalls.  They didn't really feel any better than the Kmart and Payless shoes I grew up wearing, but they did have that symbol on the side.  In retrospect it's amazing how much importance I put on a single pair of shoes. 

My parents weren't rich, but they weren't poor either.  My mom always has been a frugal spender and we did our back-to-school shopping at Ames, Kmart, Gabriel Brothers, and even the thrift store for new-to-us clothing.  When I actually set foot in Gap, American Eagle, and the department stores at the mall, I had sticker shock even in high school.  I shopped the clearance racks, and, even still, often felt buyer's remorse knowing I could get similar things for a fraction of the price elsewhere.  There are some things you just cannot skimp on, and with them come a higher price tag.  Things like running shoes, jeans you plan to wear so many times that the pockets fall off, and a few nice dressy items for church and more formal occasions.  But even for these things, I feel that it's important to get the best deal.  My mother lived out for us the example that is the complete opposite of a name-dropper.

As a parent [of many] we do the same things.  The name brand is just a name and we're not going for the title of Most Fashionable.  We shop at Kohls when we have a 30% off coupon (because it's awesome) and no other time.  We frequent Target and Ross, and I've even been known to grab an outfit or two at Dollar General for the babies.

Most of my friends growing up were in the same boat as me.  Their parents weren't probably as frugal as mine, but none of them placed real value on the brand of clothes any of us were wearing.  They were good, real friends.

I'm realizing now that the age at which kids care about brand names has dropped a bit since I was a child.  And it's not just clothing.  Comparison over things begins at such a young age.

The other day, Ben came home from a day outdoors with his friends and reported back to me (the excessively-inquisitive mom) about their shenanigans over the past couple of hours.  There was a battle involving nerf guns, some wrestling, a heated exchange of words following said physical activities and ultimately Ben was the recipient of some "put-downs" that he was trying very hard not to take to heart.  I fully acknowledge that kids will be kids and that part of childhood is hearing mean things and learning how to move on, forgive, whatever.  The thing is, the put-downs Ben was getting weren't about him or his character.  They were about his things.  He lives in a hobo house (which I can only assume means "small").  His video games are old.  His shoes aren't expensive enough.

When he told me about these this, I literally felt sick to the stomach.  My knee jerk reaction was, "Ben, who cares?"  First of all, none of those things are true.  Second of all, I have the luxury of age and retrospect to teach me that none of those things are important.  Like, at all.

What I want to do is gather all of the kids - mine, yours, and theirs and hold a public forum.  I'll just ask them all a string of rhetorical questions along these lines:

Do you have a roof over your head? 
Do you have running water?
Do you bathe in water that's cleaner than many even have to drink?
Do you have a bed with a blanket and a pillow? 
Do you have electricity?
When you wake up, are you worried about whether or not you will have food to eat that day?
When you wake up, do you have to be concerned that you don't have clothes, clean or otherwise to wear on your body and shoes to put on your feet?
When you are "bored," do you have toys to play with, electronic or otherwise, or friends to spend time with?
When you are sick, do you have access to medical treatment, at a doctor's office or elsewhere?
Have you been on a vacation?
Do you feel safe when you leave your home or is there concern that you might encounter violence from an opposing political party, which you may not know or care anything about?
Do you have a voice in your family?
Do your parents provide for you?
Are you being actively educated at school or home?
Do you have the freedom to practice the religion of your choosing or no religion at all?

Shall I continue?

If your answer to any of these questions is "yes," you're doing pretty well. 

The materialism kills me.  But so does the complaining.  From people who have nothing to complain about.  I cannot tell you the restraint it takes for me not to grab these people, young, old, and otherwise by the shoulders and just shake them.  Do you not realize how incredibly blessed you are!?  We all are.  Small house, old video games, clearance shoes and all.  Guess what.  Even if we had none of those things.  We'd be blessed beyond what we deserve.

Please, don't ever feel like your worth is measured by how you compare to someone else.  It's not.

If you would, count your blessings today.  As a favor to me.  Hit me with them in the comments. 


Jade Steckly said...

Those are great questions to ask! It is getting harder and harder to raise grateful children I think...or at least it feels that way to me. We work hard to raise children that don't feel "entitled'. Brand names don't really matter to them yet...but in a couple years I'm sure they will. I feel like it's an overwhelming battle some days though!!

Jade Steckly said...

Those are great questions to ask! It is getting harder and harder to raise grateful children I think...or at least it feels that way to me. We work hard to raise children that don't feel "entitled'. Brand names don't really matter to them yet...but in a couple years I'm sure they will. I feel like it's an overwhelming battle some days though!!

Debbie said...

Beautifully stated, and I couldn't agree more. Not completely on topic but very closely related is my beef with Americans in general for dubbing as "needy" or "poverty" that which would be living in the lap of luxury in much of the rest of the world. We are blessed beyond measure in this country. Period.

You asked for shout outs of blessings? There isn't enough time or cyber space. Here is just one of mine: I am exhausted from spending nearly a week cleaning out the treasures. large and small, in my MIL's house. I'm exhausted because the house is large and the treasures are many. My daughters will have lovely things for their own homes which their grandmother inherited from her own grandmother. Did they come from Pottery Barn? No. They came from the family, which in my opinion is the greater blessing.

Sharon said...

In a season of mourning, it takes more effort to count my blessings. But they are there, and I am praying for the strength to focus on them more than the troubles I see.

One blessing shout-out I'm mentioning today is a certain beautiful card that arrived on a day when I really needed it - and it was written by one of my favorite people. Thank you, Jennie, for your thoughtfulness, and for your beautiful words which I took to my heart.

Love you.


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