I grew up in the Middleburg, Virginia, area and now live and work in DC. Given that it’s the nation’s capital, I see tourists every weekend from every part of the country. The parents and their children are pretty obvious giveaways, to me, anyway. They’ve either taken the time to raise their children or they haven’t.
When you ask me what the defining characteristic of old money is, that’s what I think of. Not the low key behavior or style of clothing, which of course you mostly always get, and the college education that’s a part of each generation. Those are taken for granted, I think.
Of course an affluent family has the option of the mother not working in a job when the child is born and when it’s growing up. This gives bonding time, I believe, and gives the child a sense of security that someone’s there to answer questions, calm fears, and create trust.
The child that gets this is okay more often, and I’m just speaking from my personal experience. If my parents had a conversation between themselves when I was a child, I didn’t feel left out or abandoned because I had quality time spent with me. I was fine with a book or drawing. My questions were answered and my parents required me to participate in conversations when adults were around.
In DC, I see parents who haven’t spent time with their children and the children just act out now because they’re starved for attention. They’ve also been exposed to a lot of television and internet content that’s told them how to behave, what’s important, and what they should buy.
The parents are on their own phones much of the time and a real divide is driven, isolation almost. And nobody’s happy.
The way I was raised, my father didn’t care what was popular, what my friends were doing, or what I just “had to have” in the way of stuff. Before he gave me a horse, I had to spend a summer at the stables taking care of a neighbor’s horse. I got paid, just barely, and money wasn’t even the point. I loved it, and I did it, so I got the horse, but only after he knew I’d take care of it.
He was hard core and a little distant, but my mother was really involved, from reading lists to French, to how I was dressed and who I was hanging out with. They’re their own people with their own rules, their own marriage, and their own issues but I never had any doubt I was loved and that I could be okay telling them anything.
My dad traveled a lot, but if I had a meet or recital and he missed it, he was on the phone that same night asking me how it went. If it was public or competitive, he was there. The private, woman’s stuff was more mother’s domain.
There’s just no substitute for time with parents and children. I can still remember my dad sitting in his armchair with his feet up, reading, and I’d go in, grab a book off the shelf and lie down on the floor and read, too. We wouldn’t say anything for an hour or maybe more. Then I’d get up to leave and he’d reach his hand out and I’d hug his neck. And everything was okay.
If parents aren’t okay with themselves then how can they give everything that a child needs? I don’t put it down to technology with cell phones and the internet as much as other people do. I put it down to psychology. Are you okay with yourself and can you set yourself to one side so you can pay attention and invest in this little creature you brought into the world?
My mother’s family has been in this area for 5 generations now. That helped her have a sense of comfort and a sense of place. So when I came along, she could focus on me. My dad was raised in DC with ambassadors and diplomats, and I think that gave him a perspective of the world that was larger.
So, yes, there’s tweed, loafers, pearls and sweaters, but it’s really how the kids turn out. That’s old money.