I could tell you all the things I worry about as we are raising our daughter - the ways I think we might be getting it wrong.
[According to the US Census Bureau] “more than 16 million children, or roughly one in five, were living in poverty in 2011.” (PBS).
I could talk with you about the clothes we buy her - how I hope she’s learning nice things can come at a bargain price from garage sales and clearance racks. About how her closet is full of some great hand-me-downs.
An elementary school in St. Louis, Missouri did the laundry for a select number of children in their school. Their research of 600 other schools showed that “nearly one in five students did not have access to clean clothing… One year and 2,321 loads of laundry after Care Counts started, 93% of students who participated in the program improved their attendance….” (Elyse Wanshel, HuffPost)
I could share with you our latest philosophies on heathy eating. How we scrutinize processed food items for high fructose corn syrup and any number of additives I cannot pronounce. We could talk about what items we’re growing in our garden this year, about the chickens and pigs we raise, because we have our own version of organic.
“In 2014… The National School Lunch Program provided low-cost or free lunches to more than 30.3 million children daily,” which begs the question, what do these children eat all summer long? (Economic Research Service)
Between family camping trips, day trips to the beach, an overnight Vacation Bible School, and a week at a Christian camp, our little girl will spend hours playing by the water. I could talk for a long while about how I’ve changed my opinion on young ladies wearing a bikini or about the organic sunscreen we've decided to use this summer. We're trying a new chemical-free bug spray too.
“According to the American Camp Association, 70 percent of campers in their network come from middle- and upper-income households.” (Elissa Strauss, Longreads)
“In 2014, parents reported planning to spend an average of $958 per child on summer expenses. Those who can’t afford camps or summer learning programs cobble together care from family members or friends, or are forced to leave children home alone. Self-care for 6- to 12-year-olds increases during the summer months, with 11 percent of children spending an average of 10 hours a week on their own.” (KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times)
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Single parents, I see you and the incredible investments you make in your children. Divorcees, what a testament to grace and forgiveness when you find ways to parent together, even when you’re no longer together. Well done to those down on their luck, but still you find work and save every last dime to give your kids everything you can.
I’m speaking to those of us who forget the privileged lives we offer our children. Perhaps we need a shift in perspective. Think of all the good we could do if we realized our privilege and went to work helping those around us. We listen to a false accusatory voice on repeat telling us we’re not doing enough as parents, and are basically getting it all wrong. Let me tell you what my heart knows. The truth that has released me from shame and guilt and mommy-comparisons. Our daughter is fortunate because she is loved by both of her parents. We have ongoing discussions about her schoolwork, the development of her character and her relationships with others. We recognize God-given gifts in her, and work with her to develop those for her pleasure and the greater good. In a hundred ways big and small, we’re teaching her to value the blessings surrounding her. If our circumstances change in any way, I pray our focus continues to be on investing in her.
We don’t get everything right. There are areas where I need advice (thanks Facebook for being an excellent sounding board). However, I’m confident we’re giving her a good start in life, just by ensuring she has the basic foundations needed for success.