1. Not to ask their parents for stuff
2. How to take care of your shit. I grew up a poor kid in a very rich school district, it amazed me at every turn how callously people handled or treated their possessions.
My friend’s families would just destroy furniture or tools or vehicles or clothes or any one of a thousand things like it was nothing, because A.) they never had to deal with it because their parents did everything for them and B.) they had enough money to not care.
My friends who come over to my house now still don’t understand and they get frustrated when I ask them to stop doing things. Little things – don’t bounce coins off my wood furniture, don’t spill shit all over the place all the time, don’t just leave glassware lying out everywhere where it’s bound to get knocked over, don’t leave books lying open face down, put up food you don’t eat, don’t just sit on everything…
When you’re poor, every possession is valuable and you have to take care of them to make them last
3. Being ashamed to invite your friends over to your house to play, or for birthday parties, or anything, really.
The house I grew up in was clean and well taken care of, and in hindsight it really wasn’t so bad. But when all my friends had big, nice houses in upscale neighborhoods and I lived in a tiny modular home in the woods, I was quite self-conscious about my situation.
4. How bad powdered milk tastes after you’ve had real milk, and how good powdered milk tastes when you’re truly hungry.
5. Never answer the phone. It was always the bill collectors looking for money. Same with the front door. Go away nobody’s home.
6. Eating the same thing every day. My SO can’t believe I can eat one meal for days and not get sick of it. It was mostly spaghetti. Thankfully I love spaghetti.
7. Being excited to watch a Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network show at a friend’s house
8. The feeling when you see a parent concerned (or over hear parents discussing) over financial woes and you go and get the few dollars you have saved up and bring it to the table and say
Here (mom/dad) I don’t really need to save up for that (whatever). I heard you crying/saying that we needed money. I want to help
Then throwing your bank or 2-3 dollars on the table and offer it up for survival.
Followed by the feeling of trying not to cry as your parent grabs you up in their arms also fighting back the tears and says
“No honey. That’s alright. We/I really appreciate your offer but you keep your money. You saved it, we will be okay. I promise.”
How embarrassing it was when friends would ask for your phone number (or a teacher) and you didn’t have a home phone. It felt like everyone in the world had a home phone but us.
Also, not wearing trendy clothes. I got made fun of for that. Kids are mean.
10. Managing what little money came your way. Now its hard for me to spend $5 on something
11. Gifts on Christmas and birthdays are things you need, not fun things. Christmas is usually when I got all my soap and shampoo for the next year.
Clothes come from Goodwill, Salvation Army, Savers etc. if they weren’t coming out of something’s Lost and Found.
School yearbooks and pictures are unnecessary.
The best meals of the week would be the half eaten food my mother brought home from her waitress job at the country club.
12. Being afraid to ask for things because you know the answer will be no, and getting used to not being able to afford things. Eventually, you just throw out school flyers about school shirts, field trips that cost money, lunch money, school supplies, dances, trips, anything that costs anything.
You learn to accept what you have and make it work, and when you actually get something, you understand that it actually means something and costs your parent(s) money they had to work for.
Once I had my first job, I actually wasted the money on things I just kinda wanted because I had the luxury of being able to. It took a long time to learn to manage money wisely and it’s still a process, because when you never have it, it’s hard to understand how to hold onto it.
13. Being on free lunch and the shame that goes along with it. It’s not like the kids with money didn’t know. It’s basically an “I’m poor” label.
14. Butter + bread = lunch
15. Your location isn’t certain. You might be here for another month or several. You will be uprooted and dragged along soon. You will lose all the friends you have made. You will lose any sense of security. It is all about how long you can hold this place before you get evicted.
16. Going to bed hungry. Or purposefully leaving food so your parents could eat the leftovers since that would be their only meal….
17. That a ramen noodle packet with the flavoring plus cut up hotdogs with canned corn, carrots, and peas or some other combination of caned vegetables was the best fucking dinner ever. Makes me truly appreciate my parents all that I have now and I treat my parents or cook dinner for them every chance I get.
18. The giddy excitement you get going to the grocery store when the food stamps come in. Then the soul crushing shame and embarrassment of paying with them.
19. We had a school uniform, so that was fine. But the occasional ‘non-uniform day’ would be horrifically embarrassing. I often pretended to forget and turn up in uniform anyway.
20. When the whole family sits around the table, staring at the Last piece of food, trying their hardest not to snatch it up and eat it, fake laughing and saying “no thanks you go ahead and eat it, I’ve had my fill, really I’m ok” and then wistfully watch from the corner of your eye as it gets eaten.