A couple of weekends ago, I found myself chatting with a local parent who was born and raised in Europe. Once we exchanged information about our careers, the conversation naturally turned to education, and recent news coverage of education issues:
“I have to say, I find this really strange. I feel sorry for you, those of you who work as teachers. Everything is about conflict, and cutting things. In Europe, especially when I was growing up, the talk was about ‘Here’s what we need to do for our kids, now how do we pay for it?’ I worry about what to do for [my son's] education in a few years, because I feel like I can’t trust the public schools in Denver.”
I winced, both at his (justifiable) pity for folks in my profession, and the worry he expressed about his son’s schooling.
“Here,” he continued, “it seems like there’s no guarantee that things will be provided for, so all the parents have this mentality, that ‘I’m just going to do what’s best for my kid, and to Hell with everybody else.’ And I don’t want to get caught up in all that, but I have a responsibility to my child. My wife and I are thinking of moving back to Europe, just so we don’t have to deal with all this … My brother’s back there, and their lives are so much simpler about all this.”
The conversation stuck with me. “Here’s what we need to do for our kids, now how do we pay for it?” sounds exactly like my idea of putting children first. When I think of how my parents budgeted when I grew up, or when I watch my friends re-prioritize their lives now that they’re having children, the conversation is always about: “Here’s what my kids need, and here’s what we want for them; what do we need to do to make that happen?”
My parents made huge sacrifices so that my sister and I could have better educational opportunities than they did, both in terms of the school system they moved us to, as well as the kinds of non-school opportunities they worked hard to provide. At times when they could have bought themselves something or made their own lives easier, they chose instead to give us music and dance lessons. They also sacrificed their free time to drive to those lessons, attend performances, participate in fundraisers, you name it. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)All of the parents I know have cut their personal spending so they can afford to provide what their children need, and some work second and even third jobs so they can make ends meet, or live in a safer neighborhood, or provide sports training and academic tutors, or pay tuition to schools they feel will respect their values and their children’s specific needs.
This is not to say that they don’t share a date night when they can, or spend time with adult friends, or that they completely neglect themselves.
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