Sunday, December 09, 2007

Depressing Conversation. . .

My 17 year old and I had a brief conversation that has me rather sad.

I was helping her study her advanced vocabulary and I had to get back to my own studies. I said, "Can you e-mail your friends in this class and use the words?"

She blinked at me, "I don't have nay friends in this class. This is a class with the preps."

Dammit, I was a prep and I faired just fine. Why can't she be friends with the smart kids? She gathered her books and asked my husband, "Can you explain this to her?"

He told me that her school is a rich kids' school. It's public, but we are in a "rich" area. We don't have a lot of expendable cash because everything is multiplied by 9 most of the time. We don't suffer for what we need, but we don't have many extras. He explained that in her classes, she feels vastly different. She doesn't obsess, but that she has had to suffer a few blows that she's not told me about. Some girl made a stupid comment about her having a young mother, "Like, how old was she when she had you? 19?" No-- I was 20, I had her sister at 19. They don't know that she comes from a large family and some kids were making jokes about women with big families. Of course they have mothers who look like Tony Soprano's sister-- but they have money.

My husband said that we are unique-- I grew up with powerful parents. I fell hard and had a couple of kids early, got up, dusted myself off, resumed school, had more kids and am back in school. I am a scholar (in spite of my Russian class!) I expect my children to get college degrees.
This is not an option. Still, apparently for our "class" this is unusual. This is America-- I believe that possibilities are endless and that we are not tied to any situation, that with time if we don't like where we are, that we can change it. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to dinner and the president of the state senate floor came over to me and hugged me and introduced herself to my husband-- I can't be a Nobody! I don't see myself as a lower class of anything. My husband said that kids feel it, as in a lack of having a car and being 17, or not having certain clothes. Because of my daughter being so down to Earth, my husband said that she has a few friends whose parents are not pushing them in her advanced classes with her. He said that she is encouraging them and that because of her, they are going to go on to college.

It makes me sad that she has had to deal with jabs and feels that she can't be part of a social group because of me not having a lot of material wealth.

In 20 years, I see my husband and I having built on to our house so that it will have lots more rooms for the kids and their families to come back home to for holidays. Maybe we will have lots of money and be able to take the kids on trips but being here will probably be enough. I'm inspired by people who live well-- I made a salad on St. Nick's Eve and toasted my blogging friend Rick-- it was something that would come out of Palm Springs' best restaurants. My best friend's husband came over with his new snazzy car that has a leather interior and drove me to the store to pick out a present for his wife (my friend)-- he was showing off his car because he knew that I appreciated it-- there was no jealousy on my part or mean showing off on his part-- we were having fun.

My daughter said that she has no limitations-- that she'd never want to be friends with people who can be so biting, but I'm still sad that she has had to deal with comments. She will be going to a state university, not one of prestige, but she will do well. I'm really proud of her for encouraging a few of her friends like she has. I know that one girl's father has been pretty transient most of her life and she has been grounded with my daughter as far as finding an academic identity.


steve said...

After my parents were divorced, my family was on the financial brink. For three of my four years in high school I went to University High in Iowa City, where most of the students were professors' kids. I can identify with your daughter. And my daughter Sarah, who went to Interlochen Arts Academy on a scholarship, experienced some of the same prejudices--sometimes more from the school than the pupils.

I'm sure your daughter will do well. But you point up a real problem in today's materialistic world.

Adorable Pancreas said...

Everywhere I go, it rarely feels like I fit in, perhaps because the others keep me out, or maybe I because I hold myself apart. I'd hate for this to sound like a lecture on the education system in my country, but most middle class parents send their children to relatively inexpensive convent schools, where (as far as I can see) marks are the beginning, end and everything in between. My parents chose to send me to a rather exclusive private school, even though they had to make a lot of sacrifices for that, because it wasn't only studies that was given importance at that school. I was never made to feel like an outcast there, but there were moments. I got plenty of cold shoulders when we moved to a different place and I had to change to an ordinary school. That was where I went through the exact same thing as your daughter, but the other way rund, I was too rich for them. I wasn't, but they saw me that way.
In the end, this where my mom's 'self-worth' classes came in handy.
It was not my money or my marks that mattered, who I am is the only thing that should carry any weight.

Emperor Ropi said...

I should really attend some advanced vocabulary class. I know quite a lot words in Hungarian and I am getting better at English but I am always choosing the simplier structures instead of fancy ones. I am told to be unique by my friend but I don't think I am.
In my school there are some rich guys. I think a lot money makes some students disprespectful. I think it is my feel. I advise you one thing what I experienced here. You can be as much money as you wish but don't let the children to be more powerful than you.