I was sent a link to a great article the other day. I hope you have a moment to read it and think it over. It echoed many of my own sentiments about children and "stuff" and even made me question some of my own attitudes towards what is sufficient and what is excessive--whether it be lifestyle, possessions and most definitely the expectations of the young. Because remember, the two year old who is used to having the flashiest and fanciest gear eventually becomes a 16 year old who understandably expects the same.
We live in the countryside near where I grew up. I have many relatives in the area, most of whom are still actively farming. I am lucky in that there are many families around that buck the consumerism trend and share hand-me-downs, garden produce, budgeting ideas and best of all, down to earth ideals. If I was surrounded by materialism and felt the pressure for my kids to "measure up" I might not find it so easy to maintain a simple, frugal life. That is not to say that the pressure doesn't exist or that I don't sometimes give in. I used to worry a lot when other kids would come to play here because we don't have the fanciest toys. That is, until I saw 5 town kids show up and have the time of their lives catching grasshoppers in yogurt containers for hours on end. That's when I realized that kids are kids and they need to think up their own entertainment sometimes. I remember those being the best times together when I was young. I was pleased to hear, recently, about a nearby town where the children never tease each other about their appearance or possessions. If all there is at the park is a broken down pink bike, even the older boys will hop on and ride it. These are not the rich and trendy kids, you see. These are the kids interested in having fun together who, thank goodness, can see beyond brand names and labels and status symbols. So how about you?
When I think of what I want my kids to have "enough" of, I immediately hope they are always getting enough fruit and vegetables, enough time outside, enough exercise. Do they do enough to help out, are they kind enough, am I a good enough parent? Conversely, I don't want them to have "too much" junk food, too much TV or screen time, or have the expectation that things will always come easy. I think by giving them "too much" it will give them the sense that they will always have everything they want. But what if they don't? How much of a shock is it to a new college grad that can't find work, burdened with debt, used to having every gadget and convenience available? Talk about a rude awakening. I read recently that many people are unable to retire because their children's debts are sinking them.
There are definitely times when I say we have given the kids too much. Every year I swear that next Christmas will be smaller and hear myself complain that "they don't appreciate it anyways". But that is not a fair estimation of my children or anyone's children these days. It's not that they don't appreciate it, it's that they've never gone without it. They've never had one favorite, monumental toy because we've been able to give them more, and more, to excess. In one way, we've deprived them of the fantastic joy of waiting and wishing for and finally receiving that one cherished prize, whatever it may be. We equate possession with joy, "stuff" with love and often give toys rather than our time. I wonder what happens when you remove financial transactions entirely. Instead of fleeting excitement that ultimately gives way to boredom, I want my kids to know the pleasure of a job well done, the anticipation and reward of saving for what they want. I'd like them to experience going above and beyond the call of duty to help someone even when there is no foreseeable payment. I want them to get off on doing good things.
This morning I snuggled a lanky 4 year old up in a fuzzy blanket and rocked him for almost an hour when I really should have been busy with other things. It was quiet, I sang to him like when he was a baby, and I tried to memorize each freckle on that adorable little face. Because I know there is one thing that I will never have enough of, and that is time.