Driving down Preston Road, I was dutifully transporting children to school with my then-14-year-old son sitting shotgun, when I learned how this kid defines the American Dream. As is typical of this particular area in Dallas, we were surrounded by opulence: on our left was a Lexus, on our right a Porsche, and directly in front a silver Maserati.
"Mom." Abandoning his pose of boredom, my son perked up. "Which one of those do you think I'd look best in? I think the Porsche … Yeah. That's what car I'm going to get when I'm sixteen."
Fighting back nausea, I looked at him. "What planet are you on? And how do you think you will pay for one of those cars?" A question I knew had no answer, since his primary activity involves a screen and remote control.
Who is raising this kid? I thought. Is materialism and money all he thinks about? Where have all my words of wisdom gone? The hours of volunteer service, the countless lectures on being content with what you have, and all the brilliant soliloquies I've delivered on the fact that "stuff" will never really satisfy you—has none of that penetrated his brain?
After dropping him off, I passed through the last school zone on my way home and dialed my sister-in-law, who is also one of my best friends. Not only did I need to vent my frustration, I needed reassurance that I wasn't crazy and that there is a light at the end of this self-centered teenager tunnel. She delivered on the former but couldn't help much with the latter because she has a few slackers of her own. After we exchanged similar stories, I had a sobering epiphany.1