Needs Must

October 16, 2014

The British have a saying (at least I think it’s British – I never heard it before I moved here): “Needs must.”

You use it the same way you’d use, “Gotta do what you gotta do.”

Like, “I’d really like to buy a new dress for that party, but my kid needs new school shoes. Needs must.”

Or, “I’d love to go see Beyoncé next weekend, but I promised my in-laws I’d come round for dinner. Needs must.”

I was the daughter of a small-town Baptist preacher and a stay-at-home mom. I don’t remember ever going hungry, but I wore the discount store version of every trend that surfaced from 1992-1999.

Adidas Sambas? K-Mart special.

Abercrombie jeans? Faded Glory.

Keds? “Treds”.

In every one of my elementary school pictures, I’m wearing a homemade dress. And I don’t begrudge my mom one thread of it, because she took what she had and made the best of it. I got your “Make it work” right here, Tim Gunn.

Needs must, but wants rarely did.

When Simon and I first got married, I used to trawl the grocery store for deals. 60 pence for day-after-its-use-by-date lettuce? SCORE! Slightly green steaks for £2? I’ll take ’em!

When I’d bring home my sad bag of groceries, Simon would frown as he unloaded them into the fridge. “Faith,” he’d say. “We’re on two incomes. It’s good to save money, but we can find a better way to do it.”

Over the years, I’ve gotten a bit better at spending money when it’s okay to, and saving where we can. But over and over, I keep coming back to that part of me that panics about buying anything that’s not a necessity. Yes, we only have two tiny saucepans, and none big enough to cook enough pasta for our whole family in, but do we really need a big saucepan? Do we need pasta? No we do not. We can eat rice. It’s tiny.

Sure, a cat weed on our welcome mat and I had to throw it away, and now we track dirt and leaves through our front door five times a day, but do we need a welcome mat? No, we do not. I will just Hoover more often. It’s not like I have anything else to do.

Let me tell you something about being a parent: you will do anything to make sure your kids have everything they need. You will hand-sew them dresses for school pictures. You will eat carrot sticks for lunch so they can have the leftover spaghetti because they need the protein. And sometimes, if they are desperate for a Woody doll, you will use baking soda for deodorant and shampoo and kitchen cleaner for a month just so you can see their squishy little face light up when they see Woody’s hat poking out of their Christmas stocking. Because it makes you happy to see them happy.

And that is what I can’t quite get my head around when it comes to my Father. Needs must. Daily bread. I get it. But wants? Adidas Sambas? Four-litre saucepans?

Good dads provide for their children. They meet their needs. And sometimes, they show up with a shiny new football or a chocolate bar, or an ugly-as-sin 1988 Mazda 323 with no radio or side mirror, but gosh dangit if it is not the best thing your 16-year-old self has ever seen.

So I guess that’s where I am right now. Knowing what it looks like to be a parent, and trying to wrap my head around a Father who cares about the needs of all His children, and still has time to pick out a welcome mat.

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