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Awkward Question About Money and Family

ETA: You guise are SO HELPFUL I am so excited to do things for them now!! Well, in the fall/winter, but I am already planning things. Seriously, y'all are the best.

I'm from a working class family, and I'm in grad school. My dad has one credit from high school, and my mom has her high school diploma, so apparently I'm in the minority of PhD students whose parents don't have some sort of graduate education (I didn't even know that was a thing until I got here). I've been in school for a long time, and my parents have made a lot of sacrifices to get me here. My dad has been partially laid off at his work and my mom's work is closing at the end of the year, and they're freaking out. And still they help me. I have been a poor, poor student this year, and my mom checked my bank account one day (she never ever looks at what I spend things on, but she checks the total just cause I wouldn't ask for help) and realized I had $6 and change in my account, and she gave me grocery money, and started giving me $150 a month for rent.

I would not be where I am - in another city, in grad school - if it weren't for them, and for both of my parents putting my needs before their own. It hasn't been, like, "we aren't buying groceries this week so Zokajo can buy groceries!", they have enough cash/credit to more than survive, but it's still money that they could have been putting back toward their CC debt, or trying to pay off the mortgage early, or whatnot. I was just home for Easter and I have barely any clothes (I've gained weight while being poor, and the combination means that I look like a reallllly, um, unprofessional grad student), and my mom bought me this beautiful blazer so I could look nice when I present at conferences this summer.


Whew, that was long, but yeah, context. Today? Today I was notified that I got a scholarship. A big scholarship. For a few years. I don't get any of it until September, but this is a huge deal in my life.

What do you do when this happens?!? I want to pay my parents back for what they've done for me for so many years, but I wouldn't literally pay them the money back, because they'd be insulted - it was all a gift, of course. I'm going to pay all of my own rent, obv, but what else can you do in situations like this? If it weren't for this scholarship, I'm sure I'd feel this way when I get my first job anyways, but there might have been a slower arc from poor to not-poor. Is there a good way to show gratitude when you have a little extra money and could give some back? Or buy a gift? Or just say "look, me not being poor is all the reward you need!"? Eek!

Any parents out there, what do you think for your own children? Is there some way to say thank you with money or a gift that doesn't cheapen years of support? Or do you just say "thank you, thank you, thank you" for the rest of your life?



I would also give you a cookie, if I could!

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