Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Butterflies and Broken Promises

The children learned what a "pay cut" means this week. I had a talk with all of them, and explained that daddy was getting paid less for the same amount of work, so we would have less money for a while. I explained that we would not be able to go out for ice cream any more, but we could still have ice cream at home. I explained that we could still go out and do fun things, but they would be free things instead of things that cost money. I told them that when our museum membership expires, we might not be able to renew it, so we would not be able to go to the museum any more.

This was a lot for them to hear, and they managed pretty well. The hard part came two days later when we passed the Krohn Conservatory, where the Cincinnati Butterfly Show is currently in its last week. The kids look forward to it all year, and they got excited when they saw the banner. I had to explain that we did not have enough money to go this year.

My six year old cried. She loves living creatures of any kind, and one of her most treasured memories from last year is the time a butterfly landed on her sugared hand. She still talks about it. She reminded me that I had promised to take her to the show. I told her I was sorry, but I had made the promise before we knew about the pay cut, and now we didn't have the money. There was nothing I could do.

The kids have learned that saying, "Mama, you promised that..." will get them an instant hearing and a likely change in my plans. I try to teach them by my actions that promises are obligations. It is hard to realize my promises are captive to something outside my control. Today they learned that my promises are conditional on my resources. It is a necessary lesson, I suppose, but I hated it.

There will be other disappointments. We don't know how long this will last. But when I brought them home from the park that day, I got the ice cream and milk out of the fridge and I made them milkshakes. I did not realize that I had never made them homemade milkshakes before. They watched the blender until they were hopping up and down with excitement. I poured the shakes into their mugs and they drank them at the dinner table, giving themselves ice cream mustaches in the process.

"Mama," declared my six year old with enthusiasm, "your homemade milkshakes are more, more, more, more, more, super duper better than Steak & Shake's."

It's good to know.


  1. Just catching up on your news. I have no words of comfort. And I know better than to offer up a glib quote.

    So that leaves me only one response: if I come over, would you make me a milkshake?

  2. You betcha. Vanilla or chocolate mint?

  3. I hope this season of austerity passes quickly for you. So many of us have been there or are right there with you. It's hard when it seems like the rest of world is enjoying life as usual.

    No matter what, don't stop making homemade milkshakes. Even when things turn around, keep the blender and the scoop handy.

  4. So sorry to hear about the pay cut. :( I liked this option that I read somewhere: "We are spending our money in a different way" or "We're choosing not to spend our money on that" instead of "We can't afford that." It might be worth a try.

  5. You are getting me all choked up lately. Stop that :). Seriously, your posts hold much meaning for my family and me. I passed on your Waiting post to my husband, telling him it was such a great, great post and then backtracking because the oversell always ruins it. But after he read it, he said, it actually is a great post. High praise, believe me. We have been living on less, and it is hard. And I hate disappointing my kids too. But good word...when life doesn't hand you the cash to hit up the ice cream shop, make milkshakes instead.

  6. Love this. Given who we are now and the sweet memories and lessons we learned along the way, I can honestly say I am thankful for the paycuts we had to endure. I hope that doesn't sound too obnoxious.

  7. Oh, it is so hard to disappoint a child. (Last year we were in a similar situation. Things are better now.) But you know, my husband's family had some hard times when he was growing up and he is immune to worrying about money, because he says he learned as a kid that everything would be okay as long as the family was together.

    I'm glad they enjoyed the milkshakes so much.

  8. Its always hard to disappoint, especially when its not due to any circumstances you can control. I have a feeling, though, that you're going to get super creative, and your children may remember this time of "less" quite fondly :)

  9. These are hard lessons for kids to learn, hard lessons for Mama's to have to enforce. But, they're learning family and faith and commitment and teamwork and contentment...all far greater riches than anything we can buy them. Still, that doesn't make any of it easy especially if it goes on for a while. Praying for you today...

  10. I just found you again (through a long, random cick-fest during naptime) after missing your blogging for quite some time. Good to hear from you again!

    We, too, have dealt (cyclically, it seems) with the inability to make ends meet, not matter how hard we stretch them. It's always tough to accept that God's idea of providing for our every needs isn't always the same as ours. No profound thoughts, just empathy...

  11. I happened on your blog today through another friend -- it was exactly what I needed. Thanks for writing it!

    Ah, the Providence of God!

  12. It's funny how many posts have all of us in internetland nodding along with you. I'm nodding with the rest of them. We are entering a time of famine after a short period of feast.

    One small thing, I've found Groupon to be a fantastic help in finding museum memberships for our family. In the last couple years I've been able to sign us up for memberships at less than half the going rate. It may still be too much for you to swing right now, but they come around fairly often. I'm not sure if you are in an area of the country where you could take advantage of it, but you never know!

  13. I'm sorry about the pay cut. That's hard.

    When I was a child, my family went through a couple of very lean times-once, we could not afford butter so we ate I Can't Believe It's Not, and orange juice was switched for Tang. However, we were kids and we thought it was all fun. I think a lot of how your kids are going to react to making do with less is how you present it to them. Sounds like you did great with the homemade milk shakes.

    We haven't made it to the butterfly show, either...too much home remodeling going on.