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“You Live in a Poopy House”

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My son came home from school yesterday and started talking about some boys at school. He’s been having problems with them ganging up and bullying him (which has been a nightmare in itself – he’s only in kindergarten!!). I overheard him telling his dad that the boys said a bad word. They told my son, “You live in a poopy house.”

I was working at the time and I immediately stopped what I was doing. I know kids sometimes say the darndest things, but I’ve seen their house. It’s large and extravagent with playground equipment in the yard and even a trampoline. My first thought is that the parents are rich. Now that I know a few things, I am more inclined to say that they are in a lot of debt πŸ˜‰

Anyways, our house, on the other hand, is standing and the roof doesn’t leak so that’s a good start. It isn’t close to a mansion but it provides what we need. The decor leaves much to be desired and many things haven’t been updated in years. It has a lot of problems cosmetically and sometimes it does bug me that our home doesn’t look better, but it is our home and it provides the essential needs. I am content with it for now because our small mortgage ($323) is letting us pay more towards our debt.

Hearing what those boys said to my son did bother me. People can tell me I have a poopy house all they want and I’ll let it go in one ear and out the other because we have this house for a reason. But I remember as a child words like that always hurt. My son acted like he wasn’t bothered by it and I only hope that he really wasn’t. I hope he learns that the biggest house in the world won’t make you happy. Other things do.

Part of me worries that our financial situation will have a negative effect on our son. The other part of me wants to believe he will grow up to be a well-rounded individual because of the life we live. One that realizes that money doesn’t make a person who they are. Their debt doesn’t define them…their wealth doesn’t define them. What matters are the things that money can’t buy: compassion, understanding and a good heart.

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33 Comments

  • Reply Beth |

    I think it’s important to keep in discussion with your son as he ages about your choices and why you made them.

    My parents were frugal so we didn’t live in the greatest house with all the fanciest ‘toys’. Now I struggle with wanting all the toys because no one can tell me I can’t have them because they’re too expensive. While I haven’t gone into debt, I also don’t really have enough in savings (other than retirement–I’ve been good about that!).

  • Reply MOMM |

    I agree with Beth, keeping your son in the loop will be better for him in the long run.

    My DH’s Mom made several very crazy financial decisions when he was a child (and leading up until his teenage years) and it has severely affected him. They were not in debt by any means, they were very poor and struggled on a daily basis. Other kids saying stuff rolled off his back though, he honestly never cared. What he struggled with was why someone made such decisions and has since done just about the opposite of anything she ever did.

    Living in a fancy house with lots of toys don’t matter, what your son learns from you is.

  • Reply Sara |

    We went through a similar situation — but it was my kids who noticed that our house wasn’t as nice as a lot of their friends houses and a lot of the houses that I was working in. And while we did the whole “it doesn’t matter, it’s our home full of our things” route, it did still feel crummy to have my little ones notice.

    I will have to say though, knowing that you are comfortable with the amount that you pay for your roof and being able to sleep at night under said roof is a darn good feeling. When we lived in our tiny house, I never feared losing it, or getting the electric bill, and knew I could pay all the medical bills that were coming in as well. We were cramped, but we were such a happy family under that very small roof! I’d take a poopy house over stress of mounting debt ANY day.

    And, as for the bullies, I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with that. I hate that kids have to be subjected to the hatefulness of adults via their kids.

  • Reply Emma |

    Kids can be very cruel. You have a roof over your head clothes on your back and food on your table. You don’t need all of those fancy things that those otehr families have. I have a feeling that as your son grows and he understands more about what you are doing it will shape his future. I bet that those other chilkdren who obviously have everything they want when they want it will follow in their parents footsteps and down the road of debt! I am very porud of you. Keep up the good work! You’re doing so well!!

  • Reply verena |

    Excellent entry. We don’t have children, so I don’t EXPECT to hear someone tell me that, but I have been asked why we live in such a downtrodden suburb. Simply put, my house was not overpriced, and we paid it off in less than ten years. It’s not a grand house by any means, and it definitely needs a little work (we’ve been making about one “major” improvement a year for the past few years), but it is all ours.

  • Reply Chris Jones |

    My mother tells me that when I was a child, I would ask for stairs for Christmas. We lived in a trailer for the first 12 years of my life and all she wanted to give me was stairs. Our financial situation didn’t improve until I was about 16, and of course I was more mature and realized how upset I must have made my mother when she heard this request and knowing that she couldn’t give it to me.

    Now I am older, married, and having a little boy in July and sometimes I realize how growing up underprivileged (okay – we were poor, ha ha) has made me a bit materialistic. I usually buy more expensive things when I know they aren’t necessary. I believe this is a side-affect of growing up poor and wanting to separate myself from that lifestyle as much as possible. My wife nags me about this constantly, and she is actually the one that pointed it out to me. It has only been until recently that I’ve tried to not be that way.

    However, my past has made me strive that much more to better myself and become successful. Most would consider me to be extremely successful for my age so I believe that is a positive side of things.

    Note: I’m not calling you poor by any means, so please don’t get me wrong; I just wanted to give insight in to my situation that I believe pertains to your blog entry.

  • Reply Blaine |

    My family didn’t have a whole lot of money when I was young – enough, but not a lot. As a result, I grew up to respect money and possessions. The difference between my attitude and the “expect-it-all” attitude of the kids who were given everything became evident to me in college and remains evident to this day. Those kids (at least most of them) never grow out of the “expect-it-all” stage.

    I think that teaching your children to appreciate and respect money and possessions, rather than to expect and abuse them, will provide them with the skills and outlook on life that will guide them to a strong and secure future. The other kids who are given everything will grow up expecting everything, and both they and their parents will suffer for it. I feel sorry for them, actually.

    On a side note, I’ve been lurking here for a while and this is my first comment. I think you have a great blog and I enjoy reading.

  • Reply Rich Minx |

    I know kids can be thoughtless, but I’m shocked that kindergarten kids would be so judgmental. How sad for them to be materialistic at such a young age. I doubt they’ll grow out of it.

  • Reply Jim |

    One thing about kids is they can be brutally honest and call it like they see it. For the bullies that are giving your son a hard time, they learn it from their parents and do not know better. Sometimes I think we judge others simply based on the things they have or lifestyle they live. Kids with all the latest stuff expect it to be handed to them, and kids who don’t have the latest stuff appreciate the things they have. The have now pay later credit notion has become so popular that it becomes easy to live beyond our means.

    I’m shocked your mortgage payment is so low. Using that to your advantage in order to pay off your debt is great. Some day you may need a larger house and with no debt you’ll be able to afford more and pay less because of a low interest rate. I agree a big house does not bring happiness, but one that is too small can bring frustration, the defining variable is being able to properly afford it. Please don’t avoid any needed home repairs though, a leaky pipe or a funky smell coming from the wall, small problems can turn into expensive nightmares.

  • Reply Emma |

    I think you’re doing a fantastic job! As you said you have everything you need. And you are not interested in trying to “keep up with the Jonses” which shows real strength! I think your son is really going to learn from you! I look forward to your posts, and commenting from time to time!!

  • Reply Single Ma |

    Oh my, I can’t believe a 5 year old would say such a thing! I wonder if their parents said it (using the REAL bad word) and they just repeated what they heard. It’s really sad that these children are (subconsciously) learning to value material things at such a young age.

    I agree with the others, communicating with your son and making sure he understands your financial choices is the best lesson you can teach him. As he grows, coveting material things may be inevitable, but at least he will understand that incurring debt to obtain them is not the right choice.

  • Reply Nathania Johnson |

    My kids are 9 and 10. I wish I could say it gets better but it doesn’t.

    Our kids are the middle class kids bussed into the “poor school.” Apparently you don’t have to have wealth to say nasty things about the material possessions of others.

    Recently I bought an ADORABLE dress for my daughter for her birthday. She wore it to school the next day and students told her it was ugly.

    So I told her what I always tell her. They’re jealous.

    Because whether you have alot or whether you have little – you would never say these things to people if you feel okay about yourself.

    This is a great learning opportunity for your son to develop self-respect. Kids model their parents, so if you’re proud and content in your house – he will be too!

  • Reply Lazy Man and Money |

    I think your child should tell the other children that they have poopy mortgages. Nevermind, that probably doesn’t work so well with bullies.

    To put things in a little perspective, my rent is one of the lowest in my area and it’s just about 6 times your mortgage ;-).

  • Reply mapgirl |

    Oh please. You people are funny. Kids say the things they hear. So the horrible things that kids say are being said by their folks, i.e. bad words. (This is why I’m unfit to have kids. I swear like a sailor! *winky*)

    Kids also can tell the difference between things. It’s the song from Sesame Street, ‘One of these things is not like the other.’ Assuming everything is the same comes with its own problems.

    While it’s terrible that bullying starts early, just do something about it. It’s not about the house you live in. It’s the clothes you wear, the way you talk, the color of your skin, hair or eyes. Unchecked, it can turn to hatred and violence as children get older.

    Knowing the difference between two things or two people is valuable. Discriminating against people on the basis of those differences is unconscionable.

    I hope your little boy is ok. Sucks though. Been there, got over it. But it totally stinks.

  • Reply Kristina |

    It’s fabulous that you have such an affordable mortgage, that your child’s needs are met, and that you have a household that distinguishes between needs and wants (which most of America has forgotten how to do). And it’s great that you are giving your child a real financial gift…parents who are financially responsible and who will therefore be able to pay for their own retirement, help him with college, and change his family tree regarding money.

    I know I’d rather have more travel, more time with family, and more other fun things instead of a less “poopy” house for the sake of impressing the neighbors.

    And you are NOT harming your son. Research proves it. As long as someone’s basic needs are met (for example, they are not going hungry and are not facing the stress of eviction every week), their happiness levels are not affected by an increase in financial resources. In fact, many of today’s problems with youth are because they are over-privileged, and as a result they don’t learn a lot of important skills and values.

    And like most bullying, we laugh it off when we get older. I got made fun of in the same ways as your son, but it was for our equally poopy house and our very poopy car. It bugged me at the time. Of course, now I don’t care and it certainly didn’t scar me πŸ™‚

  • Reply Chris Jones |

    Sorry if this bothers anyone, but I think I fixed the problem I was having with posting comments on Firefox.

    Please disregard this message!

  • Reply Da big D |

    So what? Its true. In kids language you do live in a poopy house. Your son is too young to understand the rest of life. Its the life you have choosen for now. I was so poor growing up that I didn’t care as I got older. Now that I look back it was the best thing. But I had to go through it to learn it. So enjoy your poopy house, if you enjoy it so will your son.

  • Reply MVP |

    When I was a kid, the thing that really got through to me was when my mom looked at me in shock and said, “Are you really that vain? You’re lucky to have a home to live in.” My mother clearly expected more out of me, and that really shamed me into being appreciative of what we had and what my parents worked hard for, as well as being compassionate for those less fortunate. We need to teach our children not to be ashamed of things they don’t have, and especially to have respect for their parents’ hard work and difficult financial decisions. Remember that old commandment, Thou shalt not covet? I do my best to remember that one each time I envy a neighbor’s fancy car, landscaping job or flat screen TV.

  • Reply Kristina |

    MVP makes a great point. Just by virtue of having a minimal house and enough food to eat, American kids more more wealthy than 90% of people in the world. Maybe you can use the internet to give your son a lesson about how much he actually does have…he can learn that in much of the world, people live on less than a dollar a day, multiple families live in a single bedroom or in a straw or mud hut, and kids go to bed hungry (of course, that also happens in America). Of course, this doesn’t mean your son doesn’t have the right to feel hurt by the comments. But, it will give him some perspective.

  • Reply Jen |

    Just a thought from a mom with 3 kids: 5-year-olds like to say “poopy”! Don’t read too much into it! If you were wealthy and those kids said that, you would just assume they were being 5 year olds. I think it’s a mistake to assume that the children are really trying to insult your family or that their parents have said disrespectful things about you and/or your house.

    On the other hand, my children have their share of very well-to-do friends and not all of them are well brought up. We have always been very clear with our children that all families operate differently. Ours don’t watch TV, own video games, etc. We don’t go on a lot of vacations. They understand that these are choices that we make for the good of our family. In fact, now that they’re a bit older, they’re proud of the choices we’ve made. In the long term, your son will be proud of you, too.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. I now have a better perspective on the whole situation thanks to your comments and I know I need to be honest with him on why we live the way that we do. Whoever said that parenting is the toughest job you will ever love sure hit the nail on the head!!

  • Reply Karen |

    Here’s one more thought: there is ALWAYS someone out “there” who has more than you. There is always someone prettier, smarter, funnier, etc etc etc. When we learn to find joy in life no matter what is thrown at us, that is true peace and happiness. I personally feel sorry for the people whose kids are being judgmental. We all know they are the ones who are truly not *getting it* Yes kids like to say “poopy”, yes kids can be cruel, yes, a nice house, nice car, pretty clothes, expensive shoes, fancy vacations, lots of toys can look enticing. But life is not fair. We are not all the same. Your son will learn to hold his head up and he is being taught that the important things aren’t on display; things don’t make us happy. I have seen neighbors and acquaintences try to give their kids everything – it nearly always backfires. You can’t buy love. Keep up the good work!!

  • Reply Susan Lewin |

    Never mind the poopy house, how’s the school district? We chose our house with the school district in mind and it served us well. We have a very nice house and at the time it connected to the very best schools. This saved us from paying private school tuition.

    It still concerns me that your debt is the price of a small car and you are beating yourself up over it. If the credit card debt could be consolidated at a lower interest rate the payments could be less than the mortgage. That said the two debts (credit card and mortgage) could be less than a one bedroom apartment in most cities.

    As long as your son does not feel poor–no problem. If he becomes resentful at some point that is a problem. There is a fine line between cost effective and cheap. Your relationship with your son is priceless.

  • Reply Irene Eng |

    T,

    There are always someone who’s richer or poorer than us… don’t worry too much as it is a part of life experience for your son. You can view it as growing pain or developmental pleasure. Bullying is wrong – reflects poorly on the parents, but you can’t avoid it, just as we might get bullied as adults. What we can do is to guild our kids, give them room to grow and make sure they learn to deal with it, as they canÒ€ℒt live in a glass for long. My school district is very firm on bullying, but it happens, even to me.

  • Reply danielle |

    Children are raised with skewed ideas of rich and poor. I don’t know why we do this to kids. When I was growing up, I was taught to believe that “rich” people appear a certain way from the outside, and “poor” people appear a certain way. In other words, rich people will live on this side of town, poor on that side. Rich people will drive such and such cars, poor people, beaters. And so on. My parents kept up with the Jonses, but there were at least two major times in my growing up years when this almost killed them. I was the only one to see this, because I was the one living under their roof. Everyone else told me I was a “rich kid”.
    When I came of age, that was one of the first things I learned- oh my God. It’s the people who appear “rich” who have astronomical amounts of debt, and people who appear “poor” who are stable. I learned that taking on a lifestyle that would cause people to think I was “poor” was an easy way to achieve a LOT of financial stability. What a paradox from the way we are all raised.
    I will bet that those kids who told your son that- their parents probably have fine times as much debt as you…

  • Reply Panna |

    I am glad that you are making the choices you are to change your life and rebuild your future. I am glad that you are paying off your debts. I am glad that you are raising your son to be responsible with his choices and his finances. As the mother of two sons I know how cruel kids can be. Way to go!! Keep it up!!

    However, for the first time since I started reading your blog I really didn’t like what you had to say. Aren’t you being just as mean spirited as those kids?

    Not all of us who have nice homes and nice cars and playground equipment in the back yard have tons of debt. Some of us have no debt at all. Some of us learned the leassons you are just now learning a long time ago. We didn’t take on student loans (and no, my parents did not pay for my education, I did). We didn’t run up our credit card bills right after school. We saved and planned and saved and saved. Some of us have actually earned what we have. Some of us have found a way to teach our kids this as well.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Panna – I reread what I wrote about the parents and debt, and yes, it was mean spirited. I didn’t exactly mean it that way, though. But I guess emotions did get the best of me and I didn’t say things correctly.

    Something that I have learned on this journey is that having flashy things doesn’t always equal wealth. It doesn’t necessarily equal debt, either. I was trying to show that I learned that the outside material things are not an indicator of someone’s financial health.

    I apologize that I offended you and thank you for expressing your thoughts.

    I also apologize to anyone else I may have offended with this post.

  • Reply Michael |

    It’s awfully likely, as others have pointed out, that your child’s acquaintances’ parents are making payments much larger than yours. How much of the “nice stuff” they actually own is certainly up for debate.

    What muddles this, of course, is that 5-year-olds won’t grasp the idea, or understand how very pervasive it is, until decades have passed.

  • Reply David |

    As a child who grew up poor, the only thing that would make me BETTER off right now is if they had also been frugal spenders and not used debt as a solution. Being poor so young, I learned the true value of a dollar, how to work to get more dollars, and how to not spend it on junk. They pushed me to go to college and excel in things, and I have a good situation right now because of how I grew up. Granted, in college I got a little money and went a bit crazy with it, but at 24 things are looking up and I seem to be better off than most of my peers.

    So, Tricia, they will be better off for it. However, do teach them about money starting even now. Use the envelope method. Tell them WHY you live in a poopy house. I mean, we lived in a beat-up trailer and I hated it, but my parents were always open and honest about their finances. Even more than I hated living there, I knew WHY we were living there, and how to make sure my kids grew up in a better place. Of course, watching my parents save pennies each month for a down payment on a house they now own free and clear, I’ve learned a lot. Their openness about money management puts me in a better position than anyone I know my own age. Granted, now they are paying credit card debt off like I am, but by age 30 I’ll be debt free (school loans and all) with enough saved for a down payment on a not-so-poopy house. And if it took 15 years of my childhood in a poopy house to teach me those lessons that will set me up for a comfortable retirement, I’m fine with it now. Yes, it may hurt to be the kid without a swimming pool and trampoline for awhile, but the lifetime benefits more than make up for it.

  • Reply Maggie |

    I can definitely see why you’re worried, but I think as long as you are open about financial matters he will turn out fine. My parents spent our entire lives in debt, and are still paying it off in their 50’s. They never discussed money with us, it was one of those taboo subjects that just doesn’t come up. So all my brother and I knew is that we didn’t want to end up like them, and now we are both actively involved in personal finance. He’s a 19-year-old college sophomore and has an investment account (funded entirely by his own earnings) and I’m 21 and have already set up my own savings account and retirement fund. So if my parents could ignore the subject and we turned out okay, I’m sure your son will be a lot better off than we are since you are honest with him and doing him a great service by teaching him about money. =)

So, what do you think ?