Every parent has the story of how much better her kid has it than she had it when she was a kid. The kids will never understand what it feels like to shovel snow barefoot while battling a stomach flu, which is something that mom did almost every other day (even in the summer). It's a way that us parents can toot our own horns while ignoring the fact that we may have just screamed at our kids that morning for not putting their shoes on fast enough. If they think that screaming is bad, they have no idea how bad it feels to fashion their shoes out of paper, glue, and pinecones every day before school.
For my dad, his stories all focused on his days as a depression-era kid in Harlem. He was so poor that he had to buy himself a flashlight at Christmas; if he didn't do that there would be no presents for him under his family's non-existent Christmas tree. He would swim with rats in the Harlem River because he didn't have a pool. He joined the Seminary just so he could have three meals a day. With those memories burned into his brain, he looked at me and my siblings and called us "Rich Kids" because we always had food to eat and beds to sleep in. We even, sometimes, got Hostess Cupcakes.
My family did live really comfortably (amazingly despite the fact that there was twelve of us). We went out to eat every Friday, sometimes got new clothes, and were bought to the best hotels to sneak into so we could use their pools. I wouldn't be being true to myself as a parent, however, if I didn't compare my life to my kids and think of all the ways they had it better than me.
1. They get kiddy pools instead of trashcans: When we weren't able to make it to the local hotel to borrow their pool, my dad would drag out a dirty trashcan, rinse it out a little, fill it up with water, and stick my sister and I in it. Sometimes, these pool trips were timed to happen right when the high school up the street let out for the day. We'd gleefully bob up and down, oblivious of all the students walking by with looks of disgust on their faces. My little prince and princess only get the best with inflatable swimming pools.
2. They get multiple baths a week: My dad would turn off the hot water heater Sunday through Friday. The only exception for this was when dishes needed to be cleaned. He claimed this was to save on the water bill (which he would negate whenever he filled up a trashcan full of water for us to swim in). This left the only viable day for bathing to be Saturday. My dad would ceremoniously turn on the hot water heater and my mom would fill the tub with warm water. My dad would then turn off the hot water heater. From oldest to youngest, we'd all use the same bathwater. As the youngest, I was left with the dingy bath. My kids take so many baths a week. My childhood self would cry with envy if she knew how often they got to luxuriate in clean, warm water.
3. They have their own rooms: The house I grew up in wasn't small. After my parents made additions to it when they had six kids and counting, there were four rooms available for kids to use. When there are nine kids in the house at any given moment, the option of having your own room in a house as big as even that wasn't really on the table. Sometimes, we'd triple up in rooms. Living in such close quarters can make one feel very irritable, which is why there were so many fights breaking out in my house. When the arguments would begin, we were told to go out on the lawn and duke it out. My kids have their own rooms, which they can go to in order to get away from each other. Unfortunately, they refuse to use this option and continuously invade each other's spaces until massive fights breakout. Luckily for them, we intercede and don't force them to death matches on a daily basis.
There are so many different ways that my kids have it better than me. I believe that parenting is a process that evolves overtime and with each successive generation, maybe things will continue to get better. Maybe our tolerance for kids being kids will grow. And maybe, in two or three generations, my descendants might finally get the benefit of having their own, fancy pool.