Tuesday, June 01, 2004

pink milk and other necessities

Growing up, it never occured to me that grocery money was finite. I'd accompany my mom as a young kid to the supermarket and happily plunk down what I wanted into the shopping cart. My mom would protest certain items not because of cost but because she'd question their necessity - like chips and soda and the random candy at the checkout counter. I always felt that my little wants were certainly justified considering the boring contents of the rest of the cart, stuff like vegetables, meat and other sundries.

When Nikki and I grocer, we have a general list of things we need for the month (we shop for a month's worth of things, then supplement it as needed - for example, no fresh veggies last forever, so we buy some more later). Then we go through the supermarket in a systematic way, usually ending up with two carts filled to the brim. Sage and our helpers accompany us because we've made it a family thing.

Anyway, our total grocery bill has been escalating for the past few months, going towards P8k, and this does not include Sage's stuff which has a separate budget (her milk costs P800 each, her lotion around P1k, and there's a lot of pampers and wipes and special soaps and medicine). This is distressing because when Nikki and I lived alone (sans child and helpers), our bill was significantly smaller.

I looked at the looooong receipt printout and realized that even with my conscious attempt to reduce my own unnecessary purchases (such as chips and various drinks), we were still spending a lot of money - and much of it was contextually necessary.

What is necessary for life changes with time and circumstances. I know deep inside that I'm motivated by the desire to never have Sage lack for anything, for as long as I am able to provide it. And while pink milk may be unnecessary, it makes me happy to buy it for my daughter when she says "Please, Daddy?".

And joy is necessary. Kindness is necessary. Love is necessary.

At age 2, Sage may not be aware of the costs of things, but at least she'll know the taste of pink milk, even just once. Does this mean I'm spoling the child? Nope. I grew up as an only child until my mother remarried when I was 12. Was I spoiled? No, if being spoiled means being a brat. I never lacked for books and other things that other parents may think unnecessary but which, for my mom, were vital to my growth.

I put things in perspective for myself: I buy myself books and food and cigarettes and entertainment on a regular basis, and I rarely angst over whether these are justified. So stuff I buy for my child in the supermarket should not cost me lost sleep.

One tetra pack of pink milk, one kaleidoscope, one watercolor set.

One healthy little girl, running around with paint on her face, squinting to see the wondrous patterns hidden by a cardboard tube, saying "Wow... Look, Daddy, look!"

Because life should never be just about the bare necessities.


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