Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Balanced Perspective: Why we Travel With Our Children

This morning we woke up--after a five day trip to visit family in LA--and Kai asked why we have a mini-house. He wanted to know why we didn't have a bigger house like his cousins Zach and Alec. After swallowing my tears, I scavenged through my brain to consider how to answer this innocent two year old question.

Of course it was easy to say that we didn't have as much stuff as his affluent cousins; or that we cannot afford a gigantic house in the San Fernando Valley; that we would rather spend our money on traveling and eating well and his college fund than on a mortgage that would leave us house poor.

But the real answer was harder to explain to a child. Why don't we have what other people have? Why don't we live in a house with a squat toilet like the people we saw in Thailand? Why don't we live with fifteen people in two bedrooms like some families in Mexico? Why don't we live in a mud hut and clean our floors with cow dung? And yes, why don't we live in a multimillion dollar abode with every toy known to man?

And this brings me to why we travel with our children. If all Kai saw was the million dollar houses in LA or San Francisco, he would compare himself to others and always search for something that may be unattainable. Not to say that we travel to third world countries to feel better about our relative affluence, but on some level if we do not show our children that we live a very luxurious life compared to the people around the globe, we will end up with children who believe they deserve everything-- possibly without appreciating what they already have.

All I could do this morning to answer Kai's query was hug him and remind him that we have all we need in our "mini" house, which is actually a rented flat in San Francisco. We have more than toys, more than fancy appliances and too many bathrooms; sure we have one bathroom, hand me down furniture, paint peeling off the walls, and loud upstairs neighbors, but we also have a world view.

I just hope that as Kai gets older and begins comparing himself to others with the vengeance typical of youth that he will have a balanced place of comparison. In the end, that is all I can afford to give him.

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