Money and Identity

Thanksgiving is a five day extravaganza  in my family.  My sisters and  their families came into town, and we spend almost all of the time they are  here together because time together is so rare.

The kids have a blast – Son is thrilled to spend so much time with his cousins, and has declared on more than one occasion today that he wants to go live with them.

Days together revolve around meals.  All of our dinners are planned out before plane reservations are made.  Breakfasts and lunches are a wee more spontaneous, but we can always count on my father to plan lunch before the breakfast dishes are cleared.  We’re Jewish – food is of utmost importance.

Dad pays for everything.  He wouldn’t have it any other way. The other night the sixteen of us went out to dinner at a chez fancy restaurant, and I’m sure the bill came to at least $700.  None of us even thought of reaching for  a check.  It’s just not done.  And it’s not only when the entire family is together.  Even when it’s just the two of us Dad insists on paying, unless its his Birthday or Father’s Day.

I used to find this puzzling, and feel that I was taking advantage.   Shouldn’t I pay some of the time?  It’s only fair – and I have a very strong sense of fairness.

He and I once got into an actual argument over who was going to pay a lunch check  He got so angry when I snatched the check out of his hand, and I was shocked.  He told me that I was insulting him by not letting him pay.  Insulting him??????

And that’s when I got it.

For my Dad, being able to provide for his children has always been his number one priority.  Part of being a father is putting a roof over our heads, paying for college, paying for weddings, and paying for meals, in or out.

It’s part of his identity.  Who he is.  Money and parenthood are closely related to him, and he spent many years struggling to find the money to provide the things he felt he was required to provide.  And he always did.

We all make decisions about money, what it means to us,  how much we need to be happy, what we’re willing to do to get it.  Our relationship with money is part of our identities, and it colors all of our relationships.

And it’s taught me, again, that sometimes giving is being willing to receive.

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