I have been thinking a lot lately about sacrifice—specifically the sacrifices that parents make for their children. When my mother was a child, her family was very poor. She and her siblings have told me stories about their level of poverty and about the sacrifices that my grandparents made as they worked toward providing a good life for their children. I think, for example, of my grandparents’ commitment to the study of music. My mother took piano and cello lessons as a child. Grandmother, who was busy enough already, bartered services for those lessons. While my mother sat at the piano with her teacher, Grandmother would clean the teacher’s house. She would then go to her own home to clean house, sew clothes for four children, tend the garden, prepare meals, shell almonds for the Blue Diamond company, and all the other things Depression Era families would do to survive. Only my mother’s sister became a serious musician, but I am confident that music study has enriched life for my mother and my uncles. They understand music and appreciate it, and although they do not play instruments today, music is still a part of their lives in some way.
My husband and I are trying to figure out how we will pay for all the lessons our children want to take. Of course, we cannot and should not sign them up for every fascinating activity, but we very much desire to give them more than our budget allows. As I reflect on the sacrifices my parents and grandparents made for their children, I wonder what I need to give up my daughters’ sake.
What is going to change for us? Probably not much. The truth is I’m not made of the same mettle as my grandmother. I think it’s a sacrifice to trim my own bangs so that I can pay for my girls’ haircuts in a salon. I am glad to have had the example of my foremothers, though. They help me gain perspective in the midst of my complaining.
Paul and I will find our way. In some cases, the sacrifice will involve saying “no” to our daughters when we would prefer to say “yes.” In other cases, we will say “no” to ourselves. Like most parents before us, we know that our investments in our children will mature into rewards—not rewards for ourselves, necessarily—rewards for our girls and, one hopes, for our grandchildren.