Can you afford a Ferrari?
If your answer is “no” then you shouldn’t have a child. Or so my friend’s simple algorithm states.
The Greatest Showman was a nice reminder of why this algorithm is right: kids are expensive, kids are demanding, kids are adorable, kids are about the largest responsibility a human can undertake, and all reasonable parents will want to provide their kids pleasant lives.
This definition of “pleasant life” doesn’t change all that much based on income. Consider America’s yearly celebration of capitalism (a.k.a. Christmas). Leading up to the special day, the poor kids absorb the same ads as the rich kids. Thus all kids’ wish lists are fairly similar, even as the poor parents attempt to set low expectations (“Now you know Santa has a lot of places to go so he can’t carry too much stuff just for you.”) And that’s just Christmas. It’s not like the compulsion to buy things, especially important things (food), ever abates.
Talk about stress. The bills only go in one direction, and it’s the direction which offers the parents no way out. Find a better job? Follow your passion? Get in shape? Travel? Ha.
Yet, The Greatest Showman was also a nice reminder of why that Ferrari algorithm is wrong.
Your alarm goes off at 4:30am. It’s appalling. You instantly enter negotiations with yourself. Sure, you want that great beach body, but not in this moment. No, that beach body can definitely wait. After all, sleep is incredibly important. Don’t muscles need sleep to grow? Yup. Back to bed without even a tinge of guilt.
But if someone else is working out with you? If you’ll have to spot his/her bench presses? The negotiation tilts the other way because the guilt is far too great. Letting down yourself is one thing. Letting down others is quite another.
And letting down your family is in a different category altogether. This fear may very well motivate a provider to accomplish in ways he/she never could in isolation.
It was at least part of the reason P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) succeeded in The Greatest Showman, a film that was wonderfully solid.
The solidness came from a light weaving of some weighty topics – race, wealth, art – through a story that was genuinely fun. Even if nothing was incredibly memorable, it was all usually quite compelling in the moment. The moments that stuck with me:
- The presents for Barnum’s daughters (that was the cry)
- The bar scene between Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and Barnum
- The song on the rope between Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) and Carlyle
- The times when Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams) tried to explain that she didn’t need material possessions (there was actually a lot to think about here about how hard it can be for a rich person to explain to a poor person that trust me money will not make you happy, and the poor person who can’t help but think yea, that’s easy for you to say because you actually have money)
- When Barnum couldn’t gracefully win (again, much to think about classiness in victory, and whether it is truly a good thing when one is still striving for greater accomplishment)