Being Poor as a Kid

“For the most part, when you have kids, everything you do for them becomes the reflection of who you are as a person. A poor mother would think, “I should be able to provide my children with a pleasure as simple as a happy meal. But I can’t afford meals for all of us. So I’ll get my children happy meals.” And done. Very little more thought goes into it. We don’t want to limit the normal experiences of childhood for them. So we do what we can to give them even the bare minimum of that.
It probably never even occurred to OP’s mom that she was depriving herself in order to provide something nice for her children. You think “this will make them happy” and then the thought train stops there.”

/u/OvercaffeinateMe  in “what memory from your childhood makes you think “wow we were poor”?” on Reddit


So many comments in this thread hit really close to home.


I turned 33 today, which as far as birthdays go isn’t the most remarkable. It’s not the milestone of 21 or the “You’re old. Yuk yuk.” filled celebration of 40. It’s just kind of a date in the middle.

The denotation of the Earth traversing the Sun is an apt time to reflect on past events. I enjoy using apps such as Timehop and digging back through blog posts and Flickr uploads to keep myself grounded in time. It’s easy to get swept up in daily life and skew your memory of how long ago (or how recent) things have happened.

That said – Man, this year has been crazy so far.

In March I helped to organize and presented at WordCamp St. Louis. We’re already starting to talk about next year!

My wife, daughter, and I traveled to Indianapolis at the end of March and had a great week in the city. I was able to spend a lot of time with Kari and we bonded a bit.

In April my wife’s rescue hosted our first Car Show fundraiser. It was a fun experience and I’m glad we tried something new to garner interest in the cause.

Just this past month I traveled to Montreal for work. It was my first time out of the country and I had a great time. I was able to see some of the city, take in some of the culture and food, and present at my first international conference. 🙂

We still have two vacations planned (!) for this year, the first is a trip at the end of June to Florida. My daughter is competing at a big dance conference in Panama City and we’ve turned it into a family vacation with my sister and her brood. Oh, speaking of my sister, Jess got married to Donnie, which is something of an event in itself.

The other trip is in late July. My dad, Kari, myself, and maybe Jackie will be taking a road trip to Rapid City, SD to visit Mount Rushmore. The trip itself is the vacation and echoes a trip my dad and I took right before I got my first car. This trip is also a milestone of sorts for Kari as it will be the last family vacation before she’s a big sister. That’s right. We’re expecting our second child in September. That’s kind of the Pièce de résistance for this year.

I don’t feel 33, but I feel 33. I still like to play Lego with Kari (and sometimes when she’s not around, but don’t tell her that!). I still enjoy video games – although I’m much more interested in portable gaming than sitting in front of the TV which is a bit of a change. I still like many things from years past, but I also like things I didn’t when I was younger.

I enjoy taking care of my lawn. Yeah, that feeling when you step back after spending a few hours mowing, trimming, seeding, etc. As Delmar O’Donnel said in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, “You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land.” There’s something to that pride when you’re a homeowner.

I also like mustard on my deli sandwiches and have a better tolerance for alcohol. I’m not a beer drinker, but I’m a huge rum and coke/hard cider guy. The younger Chris never cared much for anything with alcohol, but I’m growing into a comfortable space and can have a drink or two.

I’m writing this all down for myself. It gives me a chance to stick a push-pin in time. A future self can hopefully look back on this year as a happy reminder of things going well.

Put Your Phone Away

“I would often catch myself pulling out my phone to merely check the time (and then check the time again since I never actually remembered it the first time). This frequent ‘time check’ reenforced the habit of constantly pulling out my phone and undoubtedly led to unnecessary browsing if a waiting notification piqued my interest. Buy a watch. Wear it.”

Speaking of distractions, put your damn phone away.

First Parent to Pick up the Phone is the Worst

In research for her book, Steiner-Adair interviewed 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 18, asking them about their parents’ use of mobile devices. The language that came up over and over and over again, she says, was “sad, mad, angry and lonely.” … There was one girl who said, “I feel like I’m just boring. I’m boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime — even on the ski lift!”

I’ve been bad about this, but with Kari and the second on the way I’m getting much better about putting the phone away around family.

NPR has been running many stories about parents, distraction, and technology this week. Here’s another good one.

Kids and Games – Inspired by Penny Arcade

I like video games. Not just in the sense of spending a few hours a week playing them, but the development and design of them, their history in popular culture, and the unique ways the medium allows us to experience new places and characters like nothing before.

I’m also a parent with a daughter I love dearly. Which, as you can imagine, can create friction between the two interests. Kari loves video games too. We play Minecraft together – exploring caves and looking for diamonds and avoiding monsters. She knows what kind of games she can play – and why she can’t watch dad play his more mature games.

I’m lucky, I grew up with a Gameboy in my hands and had supportive parents that looked over my shoulder every once in a while. Some parents didn’t. I know folks whose first interaction with video games was via the unrelenting requests of their children to buy the latest Sega Super Mega Ultra Station 2000 for Christmas.

I was inspired by Mike Krahulik from Penny Arcade and decided to reach out to my daughter’s principal to see what I could do to help educate other parents on video games. Below is the email I sent to her this evening. If you’re an adult who cares about young people growing up in a positive gaming culture I urge you to do something. Communication and education is far more powerful than talking heads and fear mongering.

Dr. Vogelsang,

I’m Chris and my daughter, Kari Koerner, is in Ms. Parker’s 1st grade class.

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about video games in mainstream media. Katie Couric just did an hour-long piece that, while she has good intentions, makes video games look like something the devil came up with. Here’s a good retort if you’re familiar with the piece. The whole thing is a bit crazy and like most things, the truth lies somewhere in between.

I want to talk to other parents and teachers about video games. Not some boring 45 slide PowerPoint, but an honest chat with literal examples of what games are really like, how to find games that are appropriate, and how to guide our children to the right games, in the right context, at the right time.

This past March my family traveled to Boston for Spring break. Kari, Jackie and I went to a convention called Penny Arcade Expo or PAX for short. It’s a huge gathering of 70,000 gaming nerds from all walks of life. People who love board games, Dungeons & Dragons, card games, classic video games and yes, even the modern blockbuster titles we hear about in the news. People traveled thousands of miles to see new games and hang out with people who share the same interests. And you know what? It was the most amazing group of kind, interesting people I’ve ever met.

The guys who started PAX are behind a webcomic called Penny Arcade. It’s a series that is always mature and sometimes offensive, but spares no victim in being brutally honest about video games and the culture that surrounds them. They are very outspoken on issues such as this and just this morning posted an article about an idea they had. You can read it here (Warning: strong language). The gist, if you don’t wish to read it yourself, is that one way we can help is to educate other adults on the ins-and-outs of video games. They inspired me to reach out to you to see what I can do for Bowles and the Rockwood School District.

It’s awesome to be a nerd and I’d like to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with other parents and teachers. I threw together a rough outline that I hope might give an overview of what we’d talk about.

  • Explain what ESRB ratings mean. Show them how to use these ratings to determine appropriate purchases (There’s also a free and pretty awesome ESRB app for smartphones).
  • Demo some recent games of various ESRB Rating Levels.
  • Show what it’s like to play certain games (walk through a level from a couple different games).
  • Talk about hand-held gaming like Nintendo DS and Apple iPads. These systems too have very mature games (like Resident Evil) alongside Mario and Pokemon.
  • Talk about online gaming, like Xbox Live. What will kids hear when playing with anonymous strangers.
  • Talk about parental restrictions. All systems released in the past 7 years have some from of parental restrictions, many associated with the ESRB ratings.
  • Talk about social pressures. Kids want to be popular and included.
  • Talk about what impact parents can have on other children when they visit their house (to play video games).
  • Talk about how to educate other parents in a polite manner about video games, the ESRB and the implications of inappropriate gaming.

Let me know what you think. I’d love to grab lunch and chat if you’re up to it. If you have any ideas of a potential opportunity to get a group of interested parents/teachers in a room I’m all for putting something together.

Chris Koerner