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Every Friday morning, without fail, Ruby will tell me, “Don’t forget my popcorn money, Mommy!” And although I never have and never will forget her popcorn money, the truth is that I definitely have mixed feelings about it.
The back story on all of this is that Ruby’s school recently bought a popcorn machine, and every Friday at dismissal, they sell bags of popcorn to students for $1. I am such a bleeding heart that it tears me up to think of all the kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them popcorn every week just standing there watching the kids whose parents can enjoy a tasty snack to kick off the weekend. And so I have started putting a few extra dollars into Ruby’s “popcorn money” envelope so that any kids whose parents didn’t send money can still have some. I know this is silly for a variety of reasons, but I keep doing it.
A few weeks ago, there was a book fair at Ruby’s school. Because the book fair happened to coincide with my payday and because I can say no to Barbies and Bratz all day long but have a hard time saying no to books, ever, Ruby ended up leaving the book fair with a huge bag full of Pinkalicious and Little Color Fairies and Strega Nona. One of her classmates took a look at Ruby’s loot and sighed, “I wish my mommy had a lot of money.” And I felt like such a huge asshole.
Now granted, I really don’t have a ton of money. I work full-time; I live in a rented house; I have credit card debt (left over from grad school). But I am able to buy my kid a bunch of books and a weekly bag of popcorn. I am not, however, able to send her to private school.
And so Ruby is at a public school where she is learning that she is a “have” instead of on scholarship at a private school where she would definitely be a “have not.” I know that she will gradually learn where we fit in, that we are pretty solidly middle-class and what that means.
And I know that it’s important for her to appreciate that she is a lucky kid. I just hate the idea that she’s learning this at the expense of her classmates.
When I complained about this to my husband, he just yelled, “Occupy Book Fair!” and laughed. And I get that, I get that this is a pretty small thing to get all worked up over. But I am nothing if not a hand-wringing, over-thinking, navel-gazing, knee-jerky guilty liberal – and I really hate to see kids get left out of anything.
What do you think? Popcorn subsidies for everyone?