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.