My daughter’s favorite place to eat is a Chinese restaurant a few miles from our house. My husband and I happily eat there because it’s pretty cheap; my son eats there because the buffet has every dish his toddler heart could desire (mainly Chinese dumplings and macaroni & cheese); but my daughter eats there because of what happens after the meal – the fortune cookie.
Yes, it’s getting her hands on that ubiquitous Chinese treat that motivates my daughter to ask for a dinner out at the Chinese buffet. And it’s what came inside one of those cookies that motivates me to write today’s post.
What It Said…
Opening our fortune cookies – and reading the messages inside – has become a bit of a ritual in our family. My daughter instructs my husband and I to open our cookies first; next, she orders her baby brother to do the same (usually, we do this for him, otherwise he’d eat the fortune right along with the cookie). We all read our fortunes, then wait with bated breath for our daughter to open and share hew fortune.
On our last trip to the Chinese restaurant, my fortune said, “Tomorrow you will experience great wealth.” A nice thought, but something I knew was entirely unrealistic; it was, after all, a Saturday night, and neither the state lottery nor financial institutions were operating the following day.
My husband’s fortune read, “Lucky is the man who rises early, for the sun will light his way.” That’s fortune cookie for rubbish.
We didn’t get to read my son’s fortune; he’d been quicker than us, and tried to eat it before we got our hands on it. The only part left that was decipherable was something about the cow’s milk…
Then it was my daughter’s turn. She’s four years old, and learning how to read. It took her a while – and there were some mispronunciations – but eventually this is what she read:
“You will never need to worry about a steady income.”
Whereas I’d immediately discounted my own fortune, I found myself returning to hers days later. In fact, I kept her fortune in my wallet, looking at it over and over again. What about it did I find so enthralling?
What It Meant… To Me
Any parent will tell you that the well-being of their children becomes your all-consuming thought, almost from the moment of conception. It’s why women stop having that glass of wine with dinner or a nice crumbly blue cheese after that second line appears on the at-home pregnancy test; it’s why men reevaluate everything from their investments to their career choices when their partners tell them the big news. From conception to college, parents obsess over the fine details of their children’s lives, constantly worrying if we’re doing, giving, being enough.
And so I clung to that fortune – quite literally – hoping beyond unreasonable hope that the tiny scrap of paper embedded in a stale cookie could somehow be true, that it could somehow be a peek at my daughter’s future. The idea that my daughter could be promised financial security gave me such peace of mind that I started musing about what I really wanted out of life for her. Happiness and love, naturally, but not even that is always enough. I’ve seen plenty of happy families torn asunder over the last five years, as life, the economy, and their own personal struggles destroyed any sense of financial security they may have had. The promise of a steady income in perpetuity hinted at a solid foundation for life. It wasn’t endless riches; it was just modest enough of a promise to suggest it was something on which the other necessities of a happy life – love, passion, inspiration, fulfillment – could be built.
I don’t know what my daughter’s future holds, any more than I can use a magic 8 ball to predict what my life will look like 20, 30, 40 years from now. But after reading this fortune cookie, I realized that having a steady income is something I do want for her.
Reader, what hopes and dream do you have for your children? Where does money factor in to that list?