Money has been a little tight at the Shaffer house for the past year or so. I am restarting a career and Richard is changing direction within his industry. We have been putting 4 kids through Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School and then Ida Crown Jewish Academy for many many years. So things are tight. I get accused of making understatements, but let’s just leave it at that.
I am starting to wonder if there aren’t some real blessings in this for all of us. As a free activity this week I took my kids to the forest preserve by our house. It is actually a place I love to spend time running. I call it the path to Eli’s house. Eli is a name I have for God that comes from my favorite children’s book by Max Lucado. It is where I feel Eli the most. But I haven’t been taking the kids there so much. And if money weren’t so tight, we probably wouldn’t have been there this week!
I packed a picnic, herded my 3 younger ones to the car and off we went. It was one of my favorite experiences this summer so far. We found a perfect spot to practice balancing, bear crawling and jumping on and off a log. We climbed trees. They were wild, loud and joyful. I didn’t have to say ‘no, don’t’ even once. After a few face plants in the dirt from all the jumping, we recovered and proceeded to spend another hour exploring the trails.
There were squeals and shouting every time we came across a bug, spider, dragonfly, or any other little creature. They picked up rocks and threw them into the river. We passed lots of dogs with their owners, and horses with their riders. Their little bodies jumped, skipped, raced, ran and moved in every way they knew how. It was like they had been set free from some type of bondage we don’t even know we are in until we are out. When they began to get tired, they took off their shoes and walked, ran and carried each other the rest of the way back. There was not a single whine the entire time. It seemed to meet each child’s needs regardless of age difference. There was no gift shop at the end to cause conflict. We got in the car to go home worn out and peaceful.
Not having money to spend whenever I want is teaching me a lot. I have been learning what my parents went through at this same time in their lives. I had no idea. I thought they just didn’t want to have heat in our bedrooms growing up! That we didn’t eat out because they loved their own cooking. I thought my mom made all our clothes because she just liked to sew. I never thought we were poor. I actually thought we had more than most. I am learning that having or not having money is not a character judgement. The two things are not related. And I am being reassured that it is temporary. Money ebbs and flows in our lives. What we do with that information is character development.
So maybe we are walking this path in our lives right now for good reason. Maybe we are learning how to “be” and be thankful for what we have. Maybe it is us parents that need to learn this more than our kids. Maybe we just have to keep our kids from unlearning it. Hopefully we can hang onto this lesson of what we don’t need…to always accumulate more stuff, when money is easier. Maybe this is the real path to Eli’s house. We are definitely becoming more humbled in our shoes. Our worn out one pair of shoes.
Maybe my kids will look back and think that their mom just liked taking them to the woods instead of the mall. They will be right.