Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Embarrassment (01/12/12)
TITLE: Wisdom Vs. Peanut Butter
By Jody Day
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I used to drive a dozen children to their music lessons each week. Six of them were mine. The hour trip began just about noon, so the group brought their own lunch. My children and I made peanut butter sandwiches, and brought generic chips divided into baggies, and a generic drink.
As we made our pick up rounds, each friend got on the van with a bag of fast food. Now, when you have a peanut butter sandwich in a brown paper bag, and fragrant fast food fries pass under your nose, well, life seems bland and boring. My sweet children never complained, but I sensed their taste buds were never satisfied on music lesson day.
One morning, my son, put up to it by his five sisters, approached me as I got the peanut butter out of the pantry.
“Mom, could we, just this once, get hamburgers like the rest of the kids?” His eyes shone with hopeful anticipation. I put my arm around him.
“Don’t you remember how I showed you our budget with how much we can spend on things like that?” The dry erase board still showed the lesson: The budget amount for eating out, minus the cost of 6 fast food dinners, showed a negative balance with a frowning face drawn over it. The numbers next to it showed the budget minus the cost of 6 bag lunches and a surplus balance for ice cream on the weekends. A beaming smiley face marked the positive results.
“I know, instant gratification versus future security and all that. We get it.” He didn’t sound happy about it, though. “It’s just that, well, it’s so embarrassing that we can’t afford it.”
That stabbed me a little. We were already so different. We homeschooled and ministered in a church full of public school teachers and administrators, and embraced some convictions different from even other homeschool families. We wanted our children to be set apart, but my husband and I never intended for them to be different just for different’s sake. I was a little disappointed that they didn't yet understand that "can't afford" is not the same thing as "wise choices".
“I see, I’ll think about it.” It couldn’t hurt to let them feel a part of the group in that way. I would surprise them next music lesson day with a drive through a hamburger place. But I would stick to my guns. If we blew the budget, their weekend treats would have to come out of their piggy bank.
It brought a smile to my face to watch my children’s excitement as we picked up their fast food lunches on the following music lesson day. Now, I promise, I never said a word to the other homeschool moms about my little situation. But I’ll be ‘et for a turnip’ as my father used to say, if every one of those other children didn’t get on the van with a brown paper bag, homemade lunch.
A dozen children ate their lunch rather quietly that day. I was sure my children thought I had talked to the other moms. My face felt hot, and looked red in the rear-view mirror. As soon as we arrived home at the end of the day, I assured my children that I hadn’t said a word.
“No big deal, Mom,” my son said.
‘No big deal’ turned out to the the truth. The children didn’t seem to care what they ate for lunch on music lesson day after that. I offered several times to take them for hamburgers, but they almost always opted to have their trip to the ice cream shop on the weekend.
Like most embarrassing situations, ‘least said, soonest mended’, seems to be the best approach, but I can still smell those fries.
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