Musing

Grit

person rock climbingI’m probably going to get some shit for this but I identify so much with the show Blackish. No, I’m not pulling a Rachel Dolezal. I’m not trying to pass myself off as anything but the generic white girl that I am. The thing I identify with is background – especially Dre’s lower income/blue collar upbringing.  Much of the premise of Blackish is how Dre and Bow have become upper class and have thus raised their children and how they have strayed away from their upbringing. Much of the last and the current season of the show has focused on how they are raising their children.  Dre and Bow recognize that their children have no real grit and their oldest son is essentially rudderless and it’s killing them.  Neither Dre nor Bow had that luxury and they have no idea how to navigate parenting the bougie children they have created. I have to admit that feeling is all too real for me.

Like the fictional character Dre, I grew up working class. We had enough. We received no public assistance. My parents had a mortgage and two cars – neither of which they could truly afford.  They worked hard but they lived beyond their means. We were chronically getting calls from debt collectors threatening to repo something.  We weren’t as bad off as our neighbors. Those folks were forever borrowing this big metal key thing my dad had that you could turn the water back on at the street or borrowing electric by running a drop cord from another house.  Despite not ever having enough money for extracurricular activities or vacations or most anything fun, I never felt poor. But, I do remember thinking there was no way I was going to live like that when I got to be an adult.  I went to college, got a degree and a decent job and have actively tried to distance myself from the dingy neighborhoods of my youth.

The funny thing about that “I will not live like that” promise is it gave me something that cannot be taught, manufactured or cajoled.  It gave me grit. Grit makes you want to do better so you do better – maybe not Oprah better – but better than you were.  (Whispers – Y’all knew I had to mention Oprah.)  My kids don’t have grit and neither do Dre and Bow’s kid on Blackish.  They’ve never had to have grit.  They always knew Mom and Dad would be there to pick up the pieces if shit hit the fan. I wish there was a way to foster grit in my kids without going back to the life I grew up in.  I sometimes think my kids think that having a good life just happens without very much work, determination, ambition, and grit. I’ve tried to tell them otherwise but I don’t think they get it. I’ve tried to tell them that they will have to struggle in order to get where they want in life. Maybe their struggle will hit when they get out of school and realize you really have to hustle with their job to make it happen.  Or, maybe they will just muddle through life and never attain grit. That scares me. I know I don’t have as much grit as my grandparents had.  You know the people who fought and won WWII.  Yeah, those folks had grit.  It seems to me every other generation since then has had less and less grit. At the rate we’re going the only grit anyone will have is the kind that resides in a Southerners’ pantry shelf.  Quick cook variety not instant if you please.

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One thought on “Grit

  1. This is a common phenomenon among self-made folks, whether that’s people who have escaped poverty to be middle class or escaped the middle class to become very wealthy.

    My first job out of school was managing portfolios at an investment bank, and the number one rant I heard from very wealthy people was that their kids had no experience of going after something they believed worthwhile with any real risk of disappointment. Even if something terrible were to happen to their parents, they wouldn’t have to strive for anything ever because they would have trust funds that kicked out regular income to them whether they worked or not. They felt cruel not passing their resources on to them, but they hated the results of privilege they were seeing.

    (It’s really kind of funny how little material security it takes for kids to get to be that way too. You can have a kid who is from a not-especially-wealthy family but always gets the toy they want, the clothes they want, a first car on their 16th birthday, and they are almost indistinguishable from Paris Hilton in the way they communicate and think about money and status. Either way, they are the mouse who doesn’t have to navigate the maze because someone routinely throws cheese at their head.)

    Your version is a lot more polite (kind?) than what I heard from them. And maybe they started off worrying about their kids’ lack of grit. But it evolved into resentment. Their kids went to college, they moved into careers with the help of their parents, in many cases their parents paid for their down payment as a wedding gift. After decades of benevolent intervention in the name of the second generation not experiencing the struggles of the first, the parents were honestly talking about cutting junior and his bridezilla out of their will.

    I was actually talking about this to a friend over Thanksgiving. I was telling her that I thought “grit” (not the word I used, but it is an excellent word choice) was one of the benefits of homeschooling. Our daughter is growing up with a lot of material advantages, but she does have an aspect of life that will naturally make her feel like an outsider with something to prove, and that is something that builds character. There’s a lot to be said for not giving your child everything they want even if you can afford to as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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