Monday, November 12, 2012

Difficult to say "No"

Ursula Bamnolker

It's only the second day and already we (my daughter Isabella and I) have learned so much. I found the shopping part to be incredibly challenging. First of all, Isabella was with me. She had her own ideas about what we "needed" to get. And I have a hard time telling her "No" for food items. I grew up in a household where money was tight and was often told, "We can't afford that." I have avoided that lingo with my own daughter. I will either simply say "No" or will cave and get it for her. 

So, when I told her what we would be doing and how we would only be spending a certain amount of money, she had a very hard time understanding it. Last week, we had a discussion about what "middle class" means. (She had heard political ads on TV and wanted to know what it meant so I explained what lower (I used the word "poor" instead of lower), middle and upper class (I used the word rich instead of upper) meant. When I told her what we were doing, she said, "I don't want to be poor. Are we going to be poor now?" 

For a moment, I questioned our participation in this project. It brought back a lot of discomfort from my own childhood - discomfort that I have always wanted her to avoid. So I immediately responded, "No! No, we are not going to be poor. We are doing this to understand what it is like to be on Food Stamps. It's a good project to help us understand it." 

It was very hard to say "No" to different things in the store. We ended up going to Whole Foods the next day for Coconut Oil (something I just can't live without) and she asked for Probugs, a fun probiotic drink for kids - one of her favorite healthy, extremely over priced foods.  I said "No, that will put us over our budget."  I think this is the first time I have ever said anything to her about not getting something because we couldn't afford it. It made me feel awful to do this. Just awful. 

When we got to the check out counter, she started to lay it on thick, "I'm hungry. Can't I get something to eat?" (I had Coconut Oil and lentils in the basket.) "How about one of those?", she said, pointing to the Lance Armstrong Honey Treats near the register. "Okay," I said, caving. We went $1.76 over our budget. And she was happy. And I didn't feel like I was starving my child. 

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