Parenting and Vomitoriums

This article hit me where it counts, as they used to say on the playground.  Only now, midlife being what is is, it counts in the soul more than it used to in the proverbial groin.

See what you think about this interview with J.D. Trout, author of The Empathy Gap in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/magazine/01wwln-q4-t.html

As I participate in the planning of my daughter’s wedding and facilitate as many dreams as I can for my young adult children, knowing full well that they border on idols in my life, this exchange between Trout and interviewer Deborah Solomon got to me:

Let’s say I came into $10,000 and decided to spend it on years of piano lessons for my son. Doesn’t that contribute to the well-being of society? 
Not necessarily. It can be true that your own personal projects are best served by lavishing your excess money on the people closest to you. But most of the world isn’t you.

But isn’t a musically educated child a boon to society? 
I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t have the influence on our kids that oftentimes we think we do. When you’re spending lots of excess money — money that wouldn’t make any difference to your subjective well-being — you’re spending the money on a hedonic vomitorium of sorts.

You’re comparing piano lessons to the apocryphal vomitoriums into which decadent Romans supposedly regurgitated their dinner? 
The vomitorium image is just the idea that you’re consuming something that can’t be used by other people, and it gets wasted on you.

Blew me away.  And it probably should.  For I know that even as I pride myself on being a “low maintenance” woman, that I do have my areas of  excess investment and expenditure — and they relate to my children, to travel and to time spent in restaurants in (ideally) high-minded conversation!  

What do others think of this vomitorium comparison?  And before you answer, where (if at all) are you on the spectrum of raising children?

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2 responses to “Parenting and Vomitoriums

  1. Yes, I am actually raising a son on the spectrum. Quite honestly if I came into 10,000 dollars then I’d spend it on Social Pragmatic lessons, physical therapy and maybe even piano lessons if it helped his dysgraphia (fine motor problems). Hopefully, I’d have some funds to buy the Sten’s neurofeedback system and attend their classes to help with reducing seizures and overall calming. 10k probably wouldn’t do all of that….probably more like 30k.

    Actually, I think any money spent on helping my son cope with Autism and Epilepsy will hopefully enable him to be a productive member of society and give back in the future. I can’t depend of the school system, my insurance or the government to do it. I do put my faith in God that he will be healed possibly in this world but definitely in heaven. In the meantime, we will continue on our journey.

    I am truly blessed with a terrific kid who teaches me everyday God’s love, patience, grace and the value of EVERY life.

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