Dear Urban Diplomat: how do I explain to my children that we’re not poor?

Dear Urban Diplomat: how do I explain to my children that we’re not poor?

(Image: MJ/TR)  

Dear Urban Diplomat,
Every year, my kids’ private school launches a campaign for donations, and parents are expected to give generously. My husband and I are not rich; the $60,000 tuition is 40 per cent of our income. This year, we didn’t participate, which meant our names didn’t appear in the school’s annual report. One day, our eldest daughter came home asking if we were poor, having been told so by her friend, who was told so by her mother! I don’t want my children to be stigmatized. What’s the best course of damage control?
—Charity Case, DAVISVILLE

So you want to give your kids the best education money can buy. I get that. But it means you’ve entered a Bizarro universe where an income of $150,000 can be construed as poor. All you can do this year is seize the teachable moment: explain to your children that money is tight, but you are far from poor by any rational definition of the term. You might suggest they convey the same to their friends, whose parents, from the sounds of it, could also benefit from a teachable moment. Then, when next year’s donation drive rolls around, it won’t bankrupt you to throw in a couple hundred bucks per kid—small potatoes when you’re already paying 60 grand. Sometimes caving to the pressure of petty gossip can serve a good cause.

Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at urbandiplomat@torontolife.com