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Should We Talk to Kids about Social Classes?

A recent birthday party made me wonder

by Pammy  |  2552 views  |  5 comments  |       Rate this now! 

Do you play into the world of social classes? More important, do you play your children into it?

Here's the scenario:

Junior gets invited to a classmate's birthday party. You know the child, but only know the mom by sight (from a couple of school functions). What little you do know about the family is that there are three to five kids, multiple fathers, no husband, and no one seems to be employed.

Now, here's the question:

Do you let Junior go to the party? If not, why not? If so, under what conditions, if any?

This scenario is one I was faced with very recently -- an hour in Mommy Hell. For the record: My own family is very clearly working class, blue collar -- by "social class," I don't mean whether you come from a six-digit vs. a seven-digit income. The area we live in is one of the poorest counties in the state.

I decided to let him go to the party. My gut reaction was "No way!" but I really don’t want to be like that. Who am I to say that his classmate's family is not as good as mine – how arrogant! So we went and, as I have many times before, I stayed for the party, too – I am not going to just drop him off at a total stranger’s house, be it a hellhole or the Taj Mahal.

I don’t think the host expected me to stay, but she was certainly cordial about it. As we walked in the house we were met with "BEWARE OF DOG" signs – really set the mood for a relaxing afternoon! A rottwieller was locked in the back room and two more dogs were in a pen out front (which we were instructed not to go near). Not really a problem, for me -- I used to have a Doberman who, for whatever reason, hated small children (we gave her up for adoption to a family with no kids and a full disclosure, when my niece was born. But, I digress).

Aside from the signs, my first impression was an immediate smell – old smoke, animal smells, just dirty smelling. OK. I stepped three feet in and sat on the chair close to the door where I could have full view of the kids. Playing on the 52-inch wide-screen TV was "Cleopatra" -- not exactly what I would deem an age appropriate movie for 5- to 8-year-olds. There were about 15 kids there (and, I realized later, at least 10 of them were somehow related to the b-day girl). I watched as the boys played basketball by punching choking to get the ball from one another, the girls had "light sabers" with which they were hitting each other, and the younger kids tried to dodge it all.

5 comments so far...

  • Different social classes can be distinguished by inequalities in a variety of areas such as power, authority, wealth, working and living conditions, life-styles, life-span, education, religion, and culture.
    And I know many who are i the upper class- based on wealth and one of the lowest when it comes to values and basic decencies. Thanks to everyone for their comments and thoughts - it a tough subject for us as adults to adress head on

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Pammy on 2nd February 2008

  • I think the issue is not one of social class distintion so much as it as one of learning the valuable lession of whom to and whom not associate with, not based on "class" but because of different moral values.

    I've known, and grown up with, people whom others would describe as lower class simply because of socioeconomics. However, economic level does NOT and never will be a measuring stick for "class". That's something that's inside, not outside. And I've known more than a few people in my time who are poor, on welfare, black lung, etc, who have more class and morality in their little finger than some wealthy person, with a pedigree up the wahzoo will EVER have in 100 lifetimes.

    The attributes you described in most of the people you encountered there + the overall enviroment is not healthy for the children involved. Clearly it is the adult's fault, not the children's.

    I grew up in the coalfields of Appalachia, so most of the kids' families were coal miners or hauled coal. A lot were on welfare, SSI, black lung, food stamps, etc. I can very vividly remember a girl from my senior class who attended Radford Univ for 1 semester and left because the girls from better families made fun of her and the way she dressed. Her family was WAY below the poverty level and she was VERY shy. Flora had more class than all those B***ches put together and it broke my heart to hear what they'd put her through.

    As someone said, it's the behaviors that's the key, not the fact that each kid has a different father or that they live in a lower end of town (the child can't help either of that). Yes, you don't have to associate with the parent or with their associates, BUT I was always taught you treat everyone with dignity, regardless.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by JKLD on 1st February 2008

  • I can understand both sides of the coin. Our daycare has more of a mixed-income population. I don't have the information to say that the *majority* are from low income, but some believe that. When I first considered sending my son there, a couple of people advised me against it, citing comments not about the staff or facility, but the clients. Frankly, that angered me. Yes, this daycare does not have the kind of revenue stream that wealthier daycares have, and it shows in the facility's age, their supplies...but the staff are good, and to me, that's the key. And in a way, I appreciate how this place more accurately reflects the variety of backgrounds in our community. We've had to deal with occasional unpleasant situations in the same vein as the one you describe. We had a very young girl who was clearly not being raised properly, who swore and acted inappropriately. I spoke with my son about it, saying how the *behaviors* weren't right, she has to learn how to behave properly, and I reminded him of what he should do if she acted inppropriately towards him, etc. Then there's the boy who kept wanting playdates at our house. But I determined it was b/c he coveted my son's toys, and, sadly, wanted to steal from our home. So I put my foot down quietly and without explanation to the boy about it, but explained to my son in as non-judgmental way about it as possible, but said he could continue to be friends with the boy. And to prove that, I'm very friendly with the boy whenever I see him. I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop here. - Paula.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by tkd_mama on 1st February 2008

  • Yes, Florinda is right, definitely a thought provoker. This will surely come in handy at some point in my life though I'd like to think not right now. And you did the right thing by going in. Imagine if you'd just left him and he was uncomfortable?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 31st January 2008

  • This is a thought-provoker. Thanks for writing about your experience.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 30th January 2008