You Have to Pay to Play with the Big Dogs
Life Parenting Politics/Community

You Have to Pay to Play with the Big Dogs: Children in Poverty

You Have to Pay to Play with the Big Dogs

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By Kristina Hammer of The Angrivated Mom

There are some contingencies in life that are inevitable. Unavoidable and unchangeable. Especially when you’re being raised in a low-income family.

There just aren’t enough opportunities available for these kids the same way as there are for middle- and upper-class kids. The endless number of possibilities that surpass impoverished kids cannot be regained; they are, indeed, lost to them forever.

The deviance on those children’s futures, the impact that could’ve been made on their physical and emotional development, wasted away down the drain. Just because they don’t look like the Big Dogs, doesn’t mean that they can’t hang with them if given the opportunity to do so. Some of those neglected, overlooked underdogs have Big Dog potential, waiting to be tapped.

So many doors will never open because we live in a world running on money. You can’t play if you can’t pay to do so, and there’s nothing a child can do about it. Poverty makes them just a victim of their happenstance. This is one side of poverty that can do a lot of damage to a child’s spirit and their natural love for life.

When it’s a struggle just to pay the bills, there’s no way to sign the children up for activities that would allow them to explore interests and passions. Or even discover possible talents in areas like sports, music, dance, or art. Without the classes, coaches, practices, gear, attire, equipment, mentors, teachers, or audience to teach and develop those special skills, not only is untapped potential sitting unexploited, but also lessons in teamwork and good sportsmanship and the benefits of hard work are lost.

Elementary schools typically do not have many extracurricular activities to offer, and very little of it is even sports, either, because their main objective is to grow capable and excited learners, eager for absorbing knowledge like the little sponges that they are, or because there just isn’t funding for it. Rec Centers and YMCA’s are no longer the community-oriented places to keep the town together and all the kids of the community out of trouble that they once used to be. Now, it’s all about revenue and there are no exceptions to their costs and fees.

Scholarship programs for activities are not readily available; actually, they are quite rare outside of the most decrepit inner-city areas located in the biggest of cities where there are many private, non-profit organizations in a mission. It’s damn near impossible for the average impoverished family to give their kids the same opportunities to explore their identities as their more well-to-do peers, because if you can’t pay to run with the Big Dogs in life, you’re stuck on the porch with the others whose parents don’t make enough, left behind in the dust, forced to spend a lifetime trying to catch up.

Even developing basic social skills outside of the household is a challenge when raising kids poor. There are no lessons in restaurant etiquette, movie theatre behavior, and there’s no leftover money for any sort of fun when there’s not even enough to cover day to day living expenses.

Options for having a good time are practically nonexistent outside of trips to various public parks. Craft supplies, board games, trips out for ice cream or to the zoo, and date nights, among everything else it seems, all cost something. And something is more than there’s ever leftover, if there’s even anything left at all. Even a state access park, where you must pay to play, is off-limits on such a small income.

The circumstances that have beheld their parents’ finances are of no fault of the children, but they sure do pay a price for it, and a big one at that. They constantly lose out, just as every other child that is raised within poverty level, being benched for no good reason other than circumstances out of their control and left to watch the Big dogs afford to pay to play while wishing it were them.

Watching your children grow up without being able to join in the fun and explore all of life’s offerings must be really hard on a parent. You have to deal with penny-scrounging, death-grip tight budgets, utility shutoff notices, and endless waiting in lines at food pantries and diaper banks with kids in tow, bored out of their minds, wishing they could be somewhere fun. There’s no extra money at Christmas for the kids to buy each other gifts to exchange, discovering the pure, heart warming joy found in being the source of someone else’s face lighting up with the thoughtfulness of the specially chosen gift. These children are forced to bear witness to the struggle their parents face to keep new clothes on their backs, quality made shoes on their feet, nutritious foods in their bellies, and a safe, warm, stable roof over their heads.

What’s a parent supposed to do when they can’t afford to pay the dues just so their kids can play with the Big Dogs? Those Big Dogs sure don’t take heed that they’ve left anyone behind. Personally, I think they rather enjoy the fact that it limits the competition for their own private battle for King of the Mountain.

Those people who have never had the experience of living in poverty before have this crazy notion out there that everyone whose income lies within the numerical boundaries of the disgraced underbelly class deserves to be there. They ALL must be lazy, illiterate, scum of the earth, society righteously complains, as if they know it to be factual first-handedly. Must not have a brain to think with in order to want to make something good of themselves or work harder than the seventy hours a week that they’re already working at minimum wage, had anyone really taken the bother to ask.

Some people make a few stupid and irresponsible mistakes early on in adulthood that they are shunned for in the white-collar world until kingdom come because there’s a documented record of such beginner’s debauchery permanently on file with the law. Background checks don’t always tell the whole story. That’s so much worse than the childhood fear of a mark being left on your permanent school record, because let’s face it…. no one’s EVER held anything on those things against us, no one’s really ever even looked them over besides our college admissions officers. Unless, that is, there’s an adult criminal record to go with it. Then everyone’s got their noses buried deep in that shit.

There are also those unfortunate, forsaken souls who have become deathly ill or permanently disabled, unable to work for a living and forced by their circumstance to go on a fixed-income program, putting them at poverty level. Some people just downright get laid off from their once-upon-a-time, highly desirable careers, especially with the recent market crash and recession. Trying tirelessly to find new employment with no success, they’ve discovered that their once highly coveted, specialized degree from a costly and well-known university has become a dime a dozen, useless piece of paper and holds none of the same glory it once held in previous times.

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Whatever the reason may be, not everyone deserves to be here in this bottom tier of society. Neither do any of the children, forced to endure the consequences of their parents’ lack of quality income. Even more deserving of the opportunities to play with the Big Dogs, though, are the children with neglectful parents who really couldn’t care less about them and deserve worse than the bed they’ve made for themselves.

The long-term effects of poverty are a constant worry for parents raising their children under the grips of financial restraints. Not everyone will inherit the warrior’s spirit necessary to make it far enough up the rungs of the social ladder to get out from under the constraints of their parents. Some will fall victim to those restrictions and struggle to survive as well as their parents did. The threat of competing to belong with the Big Dogs is enough for some to not try at all.

Parents spend many sleepless nights wondering, thinking, praying, and playing with their higher power. Will they be damaged forever? Held back or excluded from new opportunities because they didn’t come from or have the best of the best, the right brands and accessories?

Kids of poverty status haven’t had enough critical life experiences to handle its challenges with headstrong assertiveness. Will they be strong enough to overcome the many extra challenges that they’ll have to face head-on in order to lead productive and influential lives as adults? Will they follow down the wrong paths with false promises of easy riches because they’re vulnerable and naive? Will they be traumatized and become self-destructive? Will they actually find their talent and be able to make something of themselves?

Those haunting questions are on every low-income parent’s mind, living in the back of their heads like a song playing repeatedly on a broken record player. The answers will only egress in the course of time.

To make sure the outcomes are positive, a parent has to make miracles out of the best that they have to offer. The more knowledge of the cruel ways of the world and the wisdom of life’s unwritten hierarchies’ inner workings that can be crammed into those little heads, the better.

The understanding of where these kids are coming from in their battle against the world of Big Dogs becomes more important than just being silly together and enjoying each other’s company, because there’s never much time apart from one another’s company. Everything must be turned into a lesson. Their behavior and dispositions in any given moment are used to try and teach them how to communicate and problem solve, so they’re not completely primitive in the ways of human interaction. It saddens me that not every child who has had to suffer in poverty will have parents willing to fight the hard fight.

When these children miss out on so many experiences that inexplicably work to help define one’s character as they grow up, it’s hard to expect that these kids will have the skills and tools with to which to rise from the socio-economic class they became accustomed to. There are always a few who, by some course of predetermined fate, find a loophole that takes them easily into the upper crust of society. But those destined to cheat the system usually find that they self-destruct in the end because they still lack the foundations for character and morality, making it near impossible to build upon, yet easy to crumble under pressure.

It’s a long, hard road for these kids to overcome the shorthand they’ve been dealt in life.

It makes me sorrowful to think how much harder my own children will always have to work to prove themselves capable, because they’re going to have to learn to be capable at the exact same time. Self-esteem comes from accomplishments and successes, and there’s only so much to accomplish and succeed in from the confines of the house.

It’s a struggle to provide those kinds of instances for them to gain any self confidence without the means to pay for it. Their wings will never spread as wide as they can and soar with the flock. They can’t test the waters of life, exploring the depths and currents to find their footing among the swirling rushes of rapids without the necessary charges required just to jump off the dock.

Everything in life has a price, and when you’re working to pay and paying to work, there’s nothing left with which to play with the Big Dogs.


About Kristina Hammer

Kristina Hammer, aka The Angrivated Mom, is a Coca-Cola guzzling, go-with-the-flow sahm of 4 who has a passion for writing. She spends most of her days getting angrivated with the day to day challenges her brood brings to the table. When she’s not too busy rounding them up or chasing around her dog & three cats, she tries to spend quality time with her husband & greatest fan. She runs a Facebook page, The Daily Rantings of an Angrivated Mom in her spare time to keep her sanity above ground, & writes a blog that can be found at The Angrivated Mom, chronicling her rantings & ravings in lieu of going to therapy. You can also find her on Twitter.