Learning from My Seven-Year-Old

Sometimes, it's tempting to try to paint our lifestyle in the most positive way possible, and it's hard not to give in to that temptation. Here at Small Home Family, we've strived to keep things honest--to share the positives and the negatives.

Any time you make a lifestyle choice, especially one that affects your children as drastically as living in a tiny house does, doubts plague you. At least that's how it is for us. We have no regrets about the road we've taken. The only debt we have now is Chris's student loans, and while getting to this point required a lot of belt-tightening and sacrifice, we've finally reached the season where it feels like those hard choices are beginning to pay off. We can afford things we never could before. We aren't constantly counting dollars and putting off buying things most people wouldn't even think twice about. Honestly, it's life-changing. 

It's hard to describe that change to someone who's never experienced what it's like to live from actual paycheck to paycheck, where a fancy cup of coffee is a luxury and not something your can just cut to afford some other luxury, as if everyone is just downing five-dollar specialty drinks as part of their daily routine. (We sure couldn't afford that in the past.) There were times when I wore clothes with holes--and not the stylish kind--because my tall girl needed new pants more than I did. And a lot of our finite brain functioning was absorbed with making sure there would be money to make our house payment and buy food for our kids.

It's a humbling thing to admit.

But this past year has completely changed things for us. We have more money coming in, and I am keenly aware of the fact that we are the lucky ones coming out of 2020 ahead of the game. We've paid off our house and two cars with that extra cash. Now, we just buy what we need when we need it, and the lack of forethought required to do so is the most mind-blowing lifestyle change imaginable. We can focus on other things now--things we actually want to think about and focus on because we enjoy them.

This new freedom is part of why we're so supportive of policies that actually help lift people out of poverty. We've experienced the difference even a few thousand extra dollars a year can make to a family struggling to get by. It's literally life-changing.

So where am I going with all this?

The simple truth is that our small, inexpensive home is the only reason we're where we are today. We bought a house we could afford. People scratched their heads when we did. And then they cocked their heads to the side when we brought home a baby. Their jaws dropped when we added a second. (And honestly, there were times when we did a little head-scratching of our own.)

But we've made it work, and now we're free. We own our home. We don't have to worry about rent or a mortgage. It feels so worth it.

Until our seven-year-old says she wishes our house was bigger.

It's hard to know how to respond. Sometimes--many times--I feel the same way. But we're the adults in the room. We chose this lifestyle for ourselves. Our children didn't have a choice.

And that leaves me questioning myself sometimes. Not because I want to take on a mortgage now. After the freedom of not having one, I can't even imagine going backward again. But I want to give my child more than what she needs sometimes. Sometimes, I just want to give her the things she thinks she wants.

So how did that conversation with Sunshine end? In a surprising way, actually. As I sputtered, searching for words, she responded to herself.

"A bigger house would be a waste of money, wouldn't it, Mom?" Then she ran off to play again.

And I realized that maybe, just maybe, she's learning something worthwhile about wants versus needs--a lesson that would be harder to teach her if we gave her everything she wanted.

I still doubt myself sometimes, but right now, we're where we belong. Maybe that will change someday. Maybe it won't. But until something does change, we're learning to be content. To be grateful for what we do have, and we have a lot.

I think my Sunshine-girl is learning that lesson well.