You know how all the previous generations of Americans have wanted their children to have a better life than they had? I don’t know. I grew up in a family of five kids on a modest one-salary income. There wasn’t a lot of extra money. Clothes got recycled until they actually disintegrated; our vacations always involved a tent and a minimum of 20 hours in the car; instead of pulling over for ice cream cones we’d pull over for a carton of ice cream and five plastic spoons. To save money one year, we even picked weevils out of wheat grains and ground our own wheat for flour. True story. The point is, my parents made do and I honestly don’t think we even noticed. Our bread was weevil-free, just like the rest of America’s.
I do want my children to have it better than I did, but it’s not about any of that. I actually miss the simplicity and adventure of living frugally (though once I discovered Steve Madden shoes I realized there was no going back for me). I miss the feeling of saving up for something we really wanted and how much we cherished the gifts we received. My kids don’t know what that feels like. I don’t think they’ll have it better in life just because they have more clothes or nicer cars than I did growing up.
There is something I want for them, though. The thing is, despite all the adventures and experiences and homemade fruit leather we had growing up, my siblings and I really did not get along. We played together a little and fought together a lot. We loved each other dearly then and we still do now, but it just never felt like we were all on the same team. Maybe that’s how it is in families. I don’t know. But that’s what I want to be better for my kids: for them to cheer each other on, to be playmates, to lean on each other, to crack each other up, to confide in each other, to plot against their parents together. I want everyone in our family to be holding onto the bat when a spit ball comes our way.
The thing is, there’s only so much control we have as parents. Kids are born with their own personalities, and Rocco’s and Vincenzo’s are very different. One of them is a rule-following, room-monitor, intellectual type; the other is a rule-testing, do-it-when-they’re-not-looking, physical comedy type. I see them pushing each other’s buttons already, despite my best efforts. Again, maybe that’s just how families are. I just keep hoping for more.
So last night, when Vincenzo prayed, “Thank you, God, for Rocco because he gives me something to do when no one else can play with me,” it felt like winning the lottery. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a testimony of deep, undying love and devotion and a promise to be best friends with his brother. But it was a start.
Sometimes I think I worry too much.