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Senior Correspondent

In a big house up on the hill …

As always, the house is perfect. My mother starts decorating about a month early and by the time the holidays get here, I can’t stand the smell of Christmas trees and those sticky-sweet candles. What’s worse, I know what’s coming. Another big night — just Mom and me — opening all kinds of presents, pulling off paper and ribbons. “Ooh, ahhh!” And pretending everything’s okay. When it’s not. Dad’s gone. Sure, there are all sorts of things under the tree with his name on them. But I bet he got his secretary to order them and have them sent. Big deal, Mom got the house. She keeps saying, “I took him to the cleaners because I had a better lawyer than he did.” So now he doesn’t come around to see me at all, just texts me when he’s out of town to say he thought of me. Sure. And the presents? Mom thinks I should be grateful because I have so many and other kids don’t. Doesn’t she know I’d rather have my dad?”

Meanwhile, across town …

I hate Christmas. I like it when I go to church and we sing pretty carols, with all the little lights and other kids to play with. But after that it means another loud meal, where Mama and Papa are going to get into another fight. It’s always the same thing. Starts out okay, everyone sits down for Christmas turkey. Uncle Joe always brings the beer. We’re just making a swimming pool in our mashed potatoes for the gravy when Papa starts complaining about how much Mama spent on the presents for us kids. Or the wine. Or her dress. Or something. They’re always arguing about money. Even on Christmas. Aunt Marion tries to make it okay, saying, “C’mon guys, for the kids …” But by then Papa’s screaming, “I work myself to death to bring home some money, and it goes for crap." Before we even finish eating, he pushes his chair back so hard it hits the wall, and he stomps out of the house and gets in his car. Ms. White, my teacher, says he shouldn’t be driving if he’s had so much beer. And then my mama says, “Well, everyone, we still have a really nice pie for dessert.”

And in a nearby apartment …

My Aunt Jill is with me, staying with me again this Christmas Eve. We’re watching that old movie about a father who brings presents to his kids, just in time. My mother’s a nurse, working late shift like she does every Christmas. But she says someone needs to do it, and it pays her extra because no one else wants to work tonight. We’re lucky she can do it, because it helps pay the rent and keep us safe. The other day she showed me how we know we have enough to pay all the people we need to pay each month. And sometimes have a little left over. I told my teacher about it and she said it was a good thing to know. So when I go to a store and want something, my mother says yes or no. Because we always want to have a home … and food … and stay safe. So it’s okay that we put up last year’s little make-believe tree and that there are only a couple of presents under it. I made some things at school for Aunt Jill and Mom, I hope they like them. And I hope the envelope from Grandma has more than $10 in it this year.

The Money Messages

Everything we say and do has the power to impact how our children think about money, their self worth, what they deserve and what’s important in life. So what messages do you think these three children will carry forward as they build their lives in the future?

Closer to home, what messages are you embedding in your children?

Then, as you think back to holidays as a child, what messages did you pick up from how your parents acted around money? What memories do you have of the holidays? What behaviors do you have today that might be a result of things you saw or heard back then?

Understand that your parents were living their lives as best they could, doing what they thought was best for them and for you. It’s unlikely they intentionally said and did things that would handicap you in the future. They probably figured you’d take the best of what you learned as you grew up and, like them, would do the best you could.

What That Means Today

Today, I believe the ongoing economic uncertainty calls for being infinitely more grounded in our beliefs about money. That means going back and looking at what messages we received, to see what ones might still be affecting us negatively.

Just knowing the origin of those beliefs gives us the ability to revisit them and decide if they make sense from our adult perspective today. Many don’t. Releasing those beliefs that are not serving us well will make us all the better prepared to flourish, not flounder, as we go forward.

Let me know in the comments section below if there are any limiting money beliefs you’d like to release.

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