I am driving my daughter to her friends house for a sleepover. We are making small talk. I'm still in denial that she's growing up and my almost-nine-year-old wants to spend the night away from home. It was just two minutes ago that she needed Mommy for everything. She's growing up faster than I am.
She says, "I can't wait to see Lilly's house."
"Why?" I ask.
"Because I want to see if she lives in a fancy house or if she is poor."
At this point, I'm a little woried, but I have to ask anyway. "Do we live in a fancy house?"
She looks at me as if I just asked her if I was a purple unicorn. Like, I'm asking her a trick question because the answer is so obvious.
"No, mom. We're poor."
Ok. Ouch. That was below the belt. Regaining my focus, I ask, "What's the difference between a fancy house and a poor house?"
She thinks for a second. "Fancy houses are big and have stairs on the inside."
We arrive at Lilly's house. Which, for the record, is a very cute two bedroom house (believe me, I took a the tour and counted square footage as soon as I arrived.) with STAIRS going up to the living room.
Isabelle will be excited about spending the night in such a fancy house.
As I drive back to my poor house, I can't stop thinking about this. My daughter thinks we are poor. That is just mind blowing to me.
It got me thinking about what poor really means. And more importantly, it got me thinking about a really big lesson that I want her to learn. One that I didn't learn until I was 35.
She said "fancy" as the opposite of poor. I know my daughter (or at least I thought I did until this conversation) and I have a pretty good idea of what "fancy" means to her.
Fancy means sparkly, ornamental, decorative, frilly, lacey, and impressive. Embellished with rainbows and hearts even. Or bling and glitter. The opposite of minimalistic. In other words, my daughter equates wealth with a lot of stuff in a big house and some stairs to go with.
She doesn't know that fancy is not wealth.
She doesn't know that fancy can be a sign of wealth. But, fancy can also be a lie.
She doesn't know that fancy can mean very very poor as well.
I think about all the vacant McMansions with their overgrown landscaping. Dandelions growing through the cracks of their sidewalks. Old copies of YellowPages bleached from the sun on the forgotten driveway. That's a fancy house. Those were fancy people.
I used to be a fancy person.
She doesn't remember me like that.
I need to talk to my daughter about money. I need to talk to her about what money means. What fancy really means. What wealth means. What cash means.
I need to talk to her about earning and spending. About saving. About respecting.
This has prompted me to create a guide to Money Love for parents and their kids. It's a guide to help us have conversations with our kids. I'm creating because I need it.
We all do.
We need to talk to our daughters and to our sons about money. We need to talk to them about what money means, to us. We need to teach them what wealth means. What cash means. What debt means.
This conversation is important.
To me. To you. To our families.