July 14, 2010

My child, the advanced moralist.

"[Y]our child may wonder why you have twice the home you need. Kevin Salwen and his wife were so taken by their daughter’s conviction in this particular matter that their family of four decided to sell their 6,500-square-foot home. They bought a new one less than half the size and are giving away about $850,000, more than the price difference between the homes."

It's a conundrum of pride!

What should you learn from your child's moralistic inquiries?
How to reach a higher standard of morality.
How to talk about substantive issues with a child.
How to resist being shaken from your own decisions about how to live.
How to be proud of yourself AND your seemingly brilliant offspring.
  
pollcode.com free polls

ADDED: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

85 comments:

Joe said...

And when my child asks why s/he has to go to Community College, I'd mention the $850K they gave away.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Oh for Christ's sake. Are there any adults left in the world?

Synova said...

They're still in a house bigger than 3k square feet for four people. It's not like they moved into a three bedroom apartment.

Still room for a viking range and granite counter tops and an enormous walk-in closet and each kid to have her own room.

Talking to kids isn't that hard. The problem is if Mom and Dad really are living one way and preaching another.

AllenS said...

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

Class factotum said...

Remember that stupid Mel Gibson movie with the aliens and the patterns cut into the cornfields? The aliens were coming and he ASKED THE KIDS WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO.

Not, "I am the father and you are children and this is what we are doing because it is the best option that I, the adult, know of," but "what do you guys think we should do?"

I wanted them all to die.

Ann Althouse said...

Do the math. House #1 is 6,500 square feet and house #2 is 3,250 square feet. Assuming the cost per square foot of each house is the same and the difference in price between the 2 houses is $850,000, what is the price of house #2?

Rough estimate: A lot!

John said...

Time was when children got their moral direction from parents. Now parents apparently get their moral direction from children.

I really can't blame them for moving into a smaller house. It is their life and their money. But if they really feel that doing so is such a moral imperative, is there anything more pathetic than having to be told so by their child?

John said...

And if they had only used the $850K to send the little darling on a solo around the world sail, Althouse commentators would have loved them. Giving it away, not so much.

Shanna said...

I love these stories where we are supposed to pat somebody on the back for going from a giant house, to a very large house. BFD.

AJ Lynch said...

Shanna said "BFD". Is that you Joe Biden?

Big Mike said...

I was all set to comment, then I read what others posted and I have hardly anything to add to what Synova wrote.

She's right; 3250 sq. ft. is still a pretty big place.

I'm an atheist and I don't think anybody is going into a kingdom of heaven. But I remember enough about Christian teachings to question why what this family did is receiving so much media attention. Isn't charity supposed to be a private thing? Why are they tooting their horn?

Kurt said...

I love Synova's observation that "The problem is if Mom and Dad really are living one way and preaching another." Evidently the Gore kids never asked many difficult questions!

davis,br said...

The poll needs a "None of the above" choice. The other choices are ALL moronic.

And AFATG, the family is demonstrably headed by a couple of addle-pated neo-hippies. Who've raised another.

And as far as meaningful Bible moralisms go: perhaps they sowed, and then they reaped better illustrates this little nature vs. nurture "moral" lesson?

Gah.

MadisonMan said...

I read articles like that and have a reaction similar to DBQ's, but mine is more like: Be a parent. Stop trying to have children who are confidantes.

Also, just because your kid asks you a question, that doesn't mean you have to answer it. A parent who gets all flustered because their kid wants to know why they don't have a summer house? Spineless.

Kirstin said...

I seem to recall reading that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins told their children that they would get married if the children could explain why they should do so.

Lem said...

Yea.. but remember what, your favorite, Belinda Carlisle said..

Heaven is a place on earth.

Rich B said...

Can you imagine what happens to your mind if you expose yourself to this kind of story day after day?

Henry said...

My son wonders why he has to share a room with his little brother.

Time to buy a new house.

Synova said...

Not letting on what your charity giving or tithe is is more of a guideline than a rule. The passage about that just pretty much says that when you toot your own horn about it the reward you receive here and now is the one you get.

If you get a building with your name on it, what you get is a building with your name on it.

Or a book advance and royalties.

Kirstin said...

The sentence following that Bible verse (Mt 18:3) is "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Jesus was answering the disciples' question, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

In context, it isn't about children having more wisdom than adults.

TRO said...

My answer would have been a) how we spend our money is none of your business, sweetie, and b) but if you want to downsize your room I'm sure we can find a closet you can call your own.

c3 said...

from the article:
My wife handled it better, noting that if we had spent money on a second home, our daughter wouldn’t have been able to go to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this year

I feel pretty confident in saying that no 4 year old wants to go to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

ricpic said...

One thing's for sure, the Salwyns aren't hiding their holier than thouness under a bushel.

A.W. said...

i always thought the south park episode where they tried to rescue a killer whale was the best answer to the notion that we should listen to children on any matter of importance.

And for those who didn't see it, here's what happens, spoilers and all. Kyle goes to a sea-world kind of park, and after hours, some kids working there play a prank to make him think the killer whale is actually an alien from the moon kept prisoner. So the kids work to "free" whale, while an environmentalist idiot drones on about how wise children really are. she just finishes saying that when the rocket is launched, with a rope attached that is tied to the killer whale's tail. it drags the whole thing up into space and the final shot is of a dead killer whale on the surface of the moon.

Point is, children are morons, and adults should not seek affirmation in their attitudes.

danielle said...

I agree with TRO. I know some rich kids that turned out OK, and their parents always maintained that they, --the parents --were rich. But the kids were broke.

Quayle said...

Except ye become as a little child, ye cannot enter....

(I would add, provided that little child isn't spouting brainwash picked up from her grade-school teacher.)

ricpic said...

In the old days the rich were pilloried for conspicuous consumption; nowadays they should be (but aren't) pilloried for conspicuous virtue mongering.

edutcher said...

Pull the kid out of the chi-chi private school where he learned that and send him to someplace in the city where he needs an Uzi to make it from the door to his first class.

He will never complain again (if he makes it home).

traditionalguy said...

Anothe rexample of a lazy Father that has surrendered his authority to his child, who actually needed a Father more than he needed moral bragging rights.

LilyBart said...

Re: the Biblical quote - The Bible is talking about have a childlike faith - certainly not being a know-it-all-teenager.

reader_iam said...

What should you learn from your child's moralistic inquiries?

b. How to talk about substantive issues with a child.


Assuming one doesn't already know how to do that, of course. The other part of that is teaching your child how to talk about substantive issues.

This was the easiest poll ever. Forget the "should" in the question, we do those things all of the time (since even before homeschooling, but especially since). Isn't that part of parenting 101, for crying out loud?

Rialby said...

Wow, what altruists this guy and his family are. What percentage of his book royalties is he giving to charity? How much of his annual salary as a rebranded professional do-gooder does he donate?

reader_iam said...

That said, we also stress to our son that while the U.S. is a republic, committed to the values of democracy, our home is more of a benevolent dictatorship operated according to the lights of the dictators, i.e. we the parents.

When he grows up, gets a job and establishes his own life and home, it'll be his turn.

; )

reader_iam said...

Dang. DH and I have turned into our parents.

; )

EDH said...

Assuming the cost per square foot of each house is the same and the difference in price between the 2 houses is $850,000, what is the price of house #2?

(6500-3250) * $SF = $850,000

3250 * $SF = $850,000

@ $SF = $261?

Bob_R said...

Very strange. In theory I approve of downsizing and living more frugally, and I approve of charitable giving. But the ostentation of the story appearing in the NYT really sets my teeth on edge. "Our child is so morally sensitive!" "We are so humble! (In our million dollar home.)" "We are so generous!" You have to be careful with people who have been profiled in the NYT.

DADvocate said...

More and more we're slipping into a world where at school the state instructs kids on what's right and wrong. Then the kids come home and hound the parents.

3,250 sq ft is a big house. I grew up with 5 siblings and 2 parents in a house slightly under 3,000 sq ft. It was a big house. 5 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, living room, dining room, family room, study, rec room, kitchen, laundry room, etc.

Plus, if this couple was really dedicated to the cause, they would have destroyed their old house so that no one else could have an energy hogging oversized house. Or, at least only sold the house to someone with 12 kids or people wanitng to make a commune out of it. There should be maximum allowable square footage per person for the morally superior.

Paul said...

Ah yes. The brilliant little bugger. Now that the NEA is the new moral authority of course the children must instruct their ignorant, backwards parents.

Here's another moralizing youngster dispensing wisdom to his benighted elders:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgvnqv1-_D4

ET1492 said...

Let me know when they donate kidneys to strangers.

holdfast said...

So they don't need that $850k to pay down the mortgage on the new house? These people have too much money and too little brains.

Palladian said...

I knew this was a New York Times story before I even hovered over the link.

The New York Times does three kinds of stories:

1. Assist the Democrats stories, which are self-explanatory.

2. Bedscarves stories, being an account of the neurotic consumer habits of upper-class urbanites.

3. Urban Composters, being stories about the moralistically-justified abnormal lifestyle choices of upper-class, educated urbanites.

This story is a number 3.

Mary Beth said...

An article about tiresome people who have more money than maturity.

Old RPM Daddy said...

"Because, sweetie, we could afford 6,500 square feeet, we wanted it, and we worked hard to get it. If you want to be generous, donate something valuable of your own, not something that never belonged to you in the first place."

"Mommy, I'm going to have to report you."

exhelodrvr1 said...

Is there a hotline where we can report people whose homes are too big?

Class factotum said...

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins told their children that they would get married if the children could explain why they should do so.

Because marriage is a contract that protects children?

Alex said...

Isn't charity supposed to be a private thing? Why are they tooting their horn?

Yup, I despise the public charity types. Give in private and be content you are helping others for it's own sake. Seeking glory is very distasteful.

bagoh20 said...

The larger the house, the more contribution to the economic strength and vitality of your fellow citizens. The building and maintaining of the larger house employed more people for longer.

The giving away of the money likely made someone lazier and failed to produce jobs that make people self-sustaining, (the greatest of gifts).

We used to live in caves and huts, but few want to go back to the accompanying amenities of such an economy.

chuckR said...

My first thought was that, because we all had our noses rubbed in it, the giving away of $850k was kind of perversely Pharisaical. I think the Jews observe that the most virtuous giving is anonymous.

wv - dinglygy - got nothing, but it made me smile trying to sound it out

Matthew said...

Sterilize this child right this instant, before it breeds.

bagoh20 said...

Money invested in economic activity is morally superior to charity. I do both, but the charity is for selfish reasons and just laziness.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"In my Father's house there were many mansions, until I asked Him that awkward question. Now there are many bungalows." -- John 14:2

bagoh20 said...

I live in a city with many homeless people. They survive, laugh, play, screw, get high, etc. Materially, there is little that any of us truly needs beyond what a homeless person has in a decent climate. Why do any of us have homes at all? This is the logical conclusion to such tripe.

We create more because that's what humans do. Nobody would ask why do ants have to keep building a bigger anthill. That's what they do. There are no longer any ants that ask that question. They all are extinct, like hippies.

chuckR said...

bagoh20

My grandfather was on his own from age 17 or so. He worked and also attended college. It eventually left him so rundown and sick that he went to a doctor. Said doctor, treating the whole person and not the illness, loaned him enough money to finish up his studies. Now the understanding - and it was met - was that my grandfather would pay back that doctor. It certainly made Granddad a more productive citizen - MIT class of 1907 and a almost 50 year career as a civil engineer and eventually manager with the Southern Railroad. Judiciously done, loaning and even gifting money can be worthwhile.
I have no idea if that doctor bragged up his good deeds, but I'll bet not. In that time, I'd also bet his kids, if he had any, had no input in the matter.

AllenS said...

How many square feet in 9 bathrooms?

FloridaSteve said...

As the parent of a curious and smart 8 year old I wish you'd had "None of the above" as a choice. Seriously.

FloridaSteve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prairie wind said...

He has not yet answered his oldest child’s question directly. Why not? “The honest answer is my own fear about my son sharing it with his friends and it creating pain for them or emotional shame for their parents,” he said.

I like how he tells that. He leaves out the possibility that his kid might feel bad when Joey down the street says, "That's all your old man is worth?" And as for "emotional shame," is there any other kind?

My kids are more likely to tell me who they think is rich. When they see someone in a Jaguar, they say, "He must be rich!" Our response: "He used to be rich until he bought a Jag."

Quayle said...

I tell my kids that we can talk about the morality of our house size and carbon footprint after they reduce the moral injustice of dirty dishes and an uncut lawn.

stevenehrbar said...

The Kingdom of Heaven? Ehn. That's the place with no marriage or being given in marriage. You'd have to be like a little child to pick that as your preferred afterlife.

Tony said...

A pet peeve of mine is when the mega-rich set up a foundation to which they give their charitable donations so they can still maintain control of their money I guess?

WTF- there are plenty of charities out there already- so why not just pick one of the existing charitable groups {Mr. Gates or you Mr. Buffett} and give your megabucks donations to it. But no - they can't do that because the many of the rich are really different from the rest of us.

bagoh20 said...

chuckR,

I would contend that a big part of your grandfather's success was that he was already a hard-working self-respecting man before he got the money. If he started out with the money first, he likely would have been robbed of the experience that made him strong enough to use it that successfully. The doctor surely seen this in him and thus made an investment not a hand out. He just didn't care if the return came back directly to him.

Give granddad more credit for his success. A lot of people get money, and only end up needing more.

Triangle Man said...

They just bought the girl a winning admissions essay for Sarah Lawrence.

Flexo said...

You've quoted the wrong scriptural passage.

Here is the right one --

Jesus sat down opposite the Temple treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling His disciples to Himself, He said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
--Mark 12:41-44

Tibore said...

Is today's theme the vapidity of NY Times writers? Given this and the threads adjacent to it, it sure seems that way.

Michael Haz said...

When our kids were in grade school, my wife and I owned a 2,500 SF home in a suburban city where some of the homes along the shore of Lake Michigan were as large as 20,000SF, plus detached out buildings.

Our kids' friends who lived in those large houses hated them. They felt lost and alone at times in their own homes because the scale of the buildings were not child-friendly.

The especially hated having their mom and dad in a bedroom on another floor, at the other end of the house, during storms or when the children were ill, or when spooky noises were heard at night.

I remember when on of my daughter's friends (in third grade)was walking through our house with our daughter and stopped and said "Hey, your bedroom is next to your parents' bedroom? That is cool!"

BJM said...

Notice the article doesn't mention if the Salwyns wrote off the $850k.

I had to laugh...living in a 3,250sq ft house is not exactly wearing a hairshirt.

How many here were raised in a 3 bedroom rancher in the Burbs?

bagoh20 said...

When I was a small lad, our house was condemned and torn down due to rat and termite infestation. I remember every morning we had to wait upstairs until Dad woke up and went downstairs to scare the rats back into the basement. Our house was constantly littered with poison, traps and every method of vermin control available to the poor. Often we would wake up to find large holes chewed in the rugs and furniture. Regardless, I still have the fondest memories of that house. I can still remember dreams I had at 3 years old. One was sexual. I'm a freak, I think.

Tony said...

Three bedroom, 1.5 bath, semi-detached red brick in the city. It was great for our family of six except when 3 of us were all teens and in high school. That made the bathroom a bit like Grand Central in the morning [and both Mom & Dad worked].

Big Mike said...

I remember when on of my daughter's friends (in third grade)was walking through our house with our daughter and stopped and said "Hey, your bedroom is next to your parents' bedroom? That is cool!"

As far as I was concerned one of the biggest selling points of our present house was that the master bedroom shares no walls with another bedroom or bathroom.

Julie C said...

Reading these NYT articles makes me feel like I'm at a really snooty suburban cocktail party with a bunch of passive-aggressive social climbers. And I've been to a few of those - it is not pleasant.

Lately I've been getting these questions from one of my kids:

Why can't we go to Europe like all my friends?
Why don't we have a pool in our backyard?
When are we going to remodel our kitchen so it looks like so and so's?
Why do we have to shop at Safeway? Why can't we get all our food from Whole Foods?
When can you buy me $300 jeans?

As for the tool and his daughter in the article, my only hope is that he sends her off to some expensive college where she joins up with the Earth Liberation Front and drops out of school and ends up on the FBI's most wanted list for eco-terrorism. Would serve them both right.

Big Mike said...

@BJM, I was raised in a house that was over 50 years old some 40 years ago. The old coal-burning furnace had been converted to oil, and my Dad re-converted it to gas. My room was in what had been the attic and there was no radiator up there. No air conditioning either. Don't know how I got my studying done in a room that was that cold in the winter, but I knew I didn't want to work in the local quarry and that I had to get good grades to get into college.

Whenever I go back to visit my family in the small midwestern town where I grew up I make a point to drive past the old place -- it is still standing and probably will continue to be standing when the house I own today has crumpled into dust.

The house had only 1.5 baths for two adults and 3 teenagers, and it didn't even have that powder room until I was well into high school. And I mean bath -- no shower except something that my Dad eventually built in the unfinished part of the basement so he could clean up after a hard day's work.

Big Mike said...

@Julie, you have my sympathies. Kids are rotten.

Joe said...

You were [all] lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!

Tony said...

Julie:

I think I could fall in love with your mind!

Methadras said...

Your child may be an advanced moralist, but you as parents are morons. If you are taking your moral cues from you child, then you are indeed more childish than they are. What is happening to the collective adulthood in this country? I'm with DBQ on this. This is absurd.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with TRO. I know some rich kids that turned out OK, and their parents always maintained that they, --the parents --were rich. But the kids were broke.

I loved the time that Bill Cosby did this. Which is why he is so great.

James Wigderson said...

Another example of why children should be seen and not heard.

Palladian said...

"How many here were raised in a 3 bedroom rancher in the Burbs?"

Mhm.

Eric said...

My parents could never have afforded a 6000 sq ft mansion. However, I know just how they would have responded to moralizing about the size of our house:

"When you grow up you can live wherever you want."

DADvocate said...

A pet peeve of mine is when the mega-rich set up a foundation to which they give their charitable donations so they can still maintain control of their money I guess?

Doesn't bother me. It's their money, let them use it as they will. "eAm I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?"

Bill Gates and his wife paid for much if not all of the library a couple of miles down the road from me. Nice folks, if you ask me.

bagoh20 said...

Actually Dadvocate, I think I paid for at least one brick and a page or two. I've been paying that man nonstop for 25 years. Enjoy!

AJ Lynch said...

My sister and her family lived in a verg big house [her husband was a cardiologist]. They came to visit me and my wife when we were first married and living in a 2nd floor 2 bedroom apt [about 700 sf].

They brought my two young nieces and one of them ran around our apt and then whispered to her mother "where is the rest of their house"? It was hilarious.

Pogo said...

It's time to sell the child for slave labor, or to eat her for dinner.

jamboree said...

Kid is going to regret it when she gets old enough to need personal space and time to masturbate and have sex.

Still, I basically agree. I'd rather have more land and less house. I'm also a bit private and would prefer not having to deal with staff - that means less house is a plus for me. Why not just have rooms that you actually use?

That's a no to giving away the money though. I'd buy a bigger lot - or the house next door and knock it down.

DADvocate said...

Actually Dadvocate, I think I paid for at least one brick and a page or two.

Ha! Me, too. Not quite as long, I used to be a Macintosh man.