By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant
You knew this was coming. I mean, it’s November. Which is practically December. Which means you are gonna start buying all sorts of crap for people you love because that’s what we do in December. And then, in January and February, you wonder why your kids don’t clean up their toys and why you have to nag them and why they don’t appreciate what they have and why, when they break one of their toys, they just shrug and say, “We’ll buy a new one.”
You openly wonder how such entitled children came to live with you.
You – who works hard for every penny, who knows the value of a dollar, who uses a teabag three times before composting it. Oh, and yes – you compost. And reuse. And repurpose. And re-whatever else it is we are supposed to “re”.
And still, our kids beg us for a toy that they use only once. And they turn up their noses at our organic, shade-grown quinoa burgers (when children are starving all over the world). And they have no regard whatsoever for hard work. Where did we go wrong?
Well, I don’t want to answer that question because it’s too depressing. Plus, if you are in either my Two’s classes or parenting groups, you have already heard me pontificate on that topic more than you want to remember. So, instead, I am going to answer this question:
Where can we go right?
Happily, it’s a perfect time to have this conversation. What with the holidays approaching and all.
I am not going to regurgitate another one of those popular magazine lists about making the holidays meaningful because you can get on your union-made bicycle and pedal down to the co-op and buy the magazine yourself. Instead, I am going to offer an in-depth article on just ONE area of change: stuff.
A mom in my Two’s class hit the nail on the head when – in telling us that she takes her child’s beloved toy away when the child misbehaves – she said, “I have a feeling it doesn’t even matter. She has a million other toys to play with.”
True. We all have too much stuff.
And yes, it’s the same old annual blah blah blah about having too much stuff. Really, who among us would disagree with that? Yet, we don’t really do anything radical about it. Oh, we gather a bagful of things to donate, but within months, new things are in the house.
And here’s the deal: kids cannot possibly learn to appreciate what they have when what they have is a giant load of stuff. One cannot savor a treasure when a million other treasures are in front us, just waiting to be savored.
I think of it as food (big surprise, no?). If the refrigerator is always filled with every single food I love, each item loses value.
Oh wait. No it doesn’t. I will appreciate every bite of every item I eat. And I will eat it all every day.
Um, okay, so it’s not like food.
But it is like stuff.
I like to talk about that show on PBS many years back, called PIONEER HOUSE. Or maybe it was FRONTIER HOUSE. Hold on, I’m going to Google it.
FRONTIER HOUSE. Oh, and while I was on Google, I found that Zappo’s has the clogs I want. ON SALE. But I did not buy them because even I can see the hypocrisy in ordering new shoes while writing an article on getting rid of our stuff. Although my birthday is coming up in April. I’m just mentioning…
So, the premise of FRONTIER HOUSE is that modern families agreed to live in 1880’s frontier conditions for, I think, seven or eight months. I command you all to watch the entire series. Or to read this article all the way through and hear what I have to say about it.
When the kids were without all their stuff, when all they had for toys was a stick and piece of string that their parents fashioned into a sort of yo-yo, when it took all day to churn the butter for the bread, those kids really appreciated every single thing they had. And, many months later, when those kids were back in their track mansions, in their media rooms, in their stuff-filled lives, they admitted that they were bored. And kinda sad.
We need meaning in our lives. And it is very difficult to find meaning in something – even in a toy – when meaning is obscured by a mountain of somethings.
We do not want our kids to grow up to be mindless and desperate consumers. We want them to grow up to be grateful and resourceful and happy. We want them to know that when you have a jacket that is perfectly good, you don’t really need another one. Same with a dining room table. Or a car. Or a house.
The bad news is that whatever we hope our kids will someday do begins with what we do today. I know, right? It sucks to be a role model.
How much is enough? I am going to be asking that question this month in class and in my groups.
Or maybe I will ask it after I get the clogs.