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. The money raised goes toward the school, with the ultimate goal being to raise enough to take the kids on a school bus to City Park once a week to play since the school really doesn’t have much of a playground. I think this is awesome. But 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 – I have no idea how many kids might not have popcorn money, so sending an extra $4 might be way too much or might be way too little; I have no idea how many parents might have the money but just not want their kids to have popcorn; kids have to learn some time that the world isn’t fair; the greater good – the park field trip – will include everyone. But I figure that the school can use the extra money in any case, and I can spare it, so I keep doing it anyway.
A few weeks ago, there was a book fair at Ruby’s school, another fundraiser. 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. When we walked back into her classroom after our visit to the book fair, 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 (leftover from grad school). But I am able to buy my kid a bunch of books and a weekly bag of popcorn. I am able to pack her a lunch with organic yogurt and Babybel cheese and other little treats that she loves. 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, that there are kids out there who don’t have enough to eat or a closet full of clothes, let alone books and toys. 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?