Monday, October 22, 2012

Parenting in the 21st Century

Yesterday, I took my kids and went with my mother and grandmother to the pumpkin patch.  It was an alright time, even though those sort of things don't really amuse me anymore.  I was happy to see my kiddoes having a good time, but I didn't want to necessarily dilly-dally.

Well, the time came for us to make our way out of the place, and my mom wanted to stop at the gift shop.  My grandmother told the kids they could have two things each.  My son, who is seven, immediately found two things that he wanted.  Actually, he had difficulty deciding which two things he wanted out of the myriad of crap that caught his eye.  Naturally, he asked if he could have more than two things.

My mother almost said yes, but I looked at him rather sternly and told him to stop being so greedy.  My mom shot me a look of disaproval, to which I answered with my own furled brows, finally just waving her off with my hand.

Then it came down to my daughter.  All she wanted was a little bear.  She's only four, but she's like me in a lot of ways.  She's not too flashy, and she doesn't really want a whole lot of stuff.  She just wanted this one little bear, but my grandmother and mom kept asking her, "are you sure you only want one thing?"  When they asked her a third time--after already answering "no" both times--I finally stepped in and said "she doesn't want two things, she doesn't need two things.  Stop trying to make her buy some junk that she doesn't even want."

That's a key difference between my mother and me.  For whatever reason, she's all about excess.  To see her house at Christmas time is to see why the Christmas decoration business thrives so well.  She wants to have tons of stuff, and she wants my kids to have tons of stuff.

On birthdays, I have to specifically tell everyone "one. toy. only."  And when I do, I always get groans of complaint.  If those idiots could only see the ridiculous mound of toys we've accumulated over the years--toys that they hardly ever play with--then perhaps they would understand.  My children want for nothing.  They're supply seriously outweighs their demand.  My mother apparently thinks that happiness and contentment lies in quanity, whereas I want my kids to learn that it's all about quality.

That's why I limit how many gifts they get for holidays.  That's why going to the toy store is something that only happens less than once in a blue moon.  In fact, I almost never take them to the toy store unless they have gift cards to spend from their birthdays.

I found myself feeling rather disgusted that they were pushing the kids to get more shit that they didn't even want or need.  The word that kept popping into my head was "decadence."  Then I started thinking about an episode of American Dad, specifically the one in which Stan Smith squares off against a former Soviet national.  He was a commie, of course, and all he talked about was "the decadent west."  I sort of chuckled to myself, but it got me thinking.

I think that American parents should teach their children about the value of frugality and rejecting an opulent lifestyle.  American society anymore is all about more stuff--not better stuff, just more stuff.  I don't want my kids turning out like that.  I don't want them buying into this obscene consumer culture that constantly bombards them.

Parenting in the 21st century means that you have to instill the values of much earlier centuries--those tried and true values that transform children into healthy, well adjusted adults of good virtue.  I want to say that the general value should be moderation, but also to teach children that although it's not necessarily wrong to want more stuff, they should learn to be happy with what they have.  And they should learn to be happy with only having a little bit.

I have the few things that make me happy.  I'm all about electronics and gaming: my PC is a pretty good gaming rig, I've got a nice 32 inch LCD TV, and I've got a PS3.  Other than that, though, I really don't want much else.  I'm fine with my books, my games, and my interwebs.

Be happy with less, because less makes your life less complicated.  Less material possessions makes one's life more meaningful, because that means we have to focus on the life of the mind rather than the life of hacing four cars and a summer home.

Am I alone on this?


Anonymous said...

I will attempt to keep this brief, however I don't hold much hope for that.

basically, decadence and more specifically hedonism is what is driving us as a culture.

Intelligence and logic are shunned by people at large, while status and other peripheral qualities are revered. You turn on the TV and see the Jersey Shore, the Kardashian Whorempire, the real housewives, NBA, NFL, Nascrap, movies, etc. The motto is you really can have it all. Like the Sierra Madre Casino. You pay no price for having it all, etc etc.

I like the NFL, I like Nascar, but I do NOT like what they truly represent, and they represent excess.

Racing in particular is amazing to me because I am involved heavily in it, the tires alone they will eat through in a single race week is more money than you can imagine.

Every time you watch drag racing and see a top fuel car make a 1/4 mile pass, that was $7,000 in fuel consumed in 5 seconds.

It goes back to what got us here in the first place, we crawled outta the caves and scrounged out existence with nothing but some fire and primitive tools.

America itself is a testament to the power of technology. We used our technology to secure this land from the native americans, we used technology to secure ourselves as the ultimate warrior nation.

Now we are using technology to be comfortable. While someone is stressing about what so and so is wearing at the party, there are 15,000 people starving to death on this planet. It makes no sense whatsoever.

So yes, I can tell you that you are not alone in the feeling that less is more... but that is an ever shrinking pocket of the people. Most people typically want their obama and their romney and their 54oz of Hagen-dasz spoonfed to them so they can wipe their ice creamed ass with $100 bills.

Jersey McJones said...

Decadence is a normal part of the heights of empire. It's usual a normal part of it's decline as well. But the dynamics of the particulars make it a very complex factor. It's not always bad, in other words. It is what it is.

It's good to recognize it, though. Keeps us on our toes.

I, like you Jack, am pretty minimalistic. The more things you have, the more you have to fuss over them. In my private life, I keep it simple. That frees me to enjoy other pursuits in life.


Anonymous said...

Do you think it's a generational thing? I know my parents seem to acquire insane quantities of decorations. Also just "stuff" they find at garage sales.... Eg they just got a great "deal" on a treadmill. Since I moved out I have kept fairly minimal. I have a shelf, a DISPLAY where I put amusing things or sentimental items. Other than that, I'm more minimalist or utilitarian.

Do you think our generation is just ill from the constant bombardment of advertisements? Or maybe it has to do with low income ( underemployment in our generation)


FreeThinke said...

One of humanity's more serious problems is most of us having a burning desire to see other people behave just like our implicitly perfect selves.

This fundamentally tyrannical impulse is the basis of liberal-progressive - AND - theocratic-authoritarian -- thinking -- i.e. uniformity in adherence to a code of "proper" aims and objectives -- a code that would inhibit, even nullify, the natural inclinations of many-if-not-most.

I, personally, believe we, as a species, would be better off if we could learn to let people be who and what they are, and learn to enjoy the many differences among us without censure, undue criticism and pressure to conform.

~ FT

Jack Camwell said...


Welcome back =) Yes, I think it's a generational thing. I for one am tired of this constant struggle to acquire stuff that we're told is the height of human existence.

Wanting someone to be virtuos is not tyrannical. Wanting what's best for society does not amount to totalitarianism.

Conformity is good when it comes to healthy societal norms. For example, you should be glad that most people conform to the notion that murder is wrong.

If society simply allowed everyone to be EXACTLY who they were without consequences, then society could not exist because most humans are sociopathic douchebags. Getting them to conform to some healthy norm is not a bad thing, it's merely increasing the potential for the society to endure.

jez said...

The beating heart of this article is the matter of how to raise your children. Imparting values to your offspring may be tyrannical but it is definitely necessary.

One of the foundational lessons I want my children to learn, and the one which I expect society will contradict most frequently, is that there is more to life than deciding what type of consumer to be.

Jack Camwell said...

Thanks for visiting Jez.

Yes, I agree completely. There is so little focus today on things like virtue. It's an interesting thing to think that our identities as individuals are becoming more defined by "what type of consumer to be," rather than virtue, personality, ethics, and morality.

Anonymous said...

Love the picture. Very sweet.

Animals, sometimes, have a better understanding of what parenting means than we.

I think FT probably heard the tone of a martinet in the making. From what I've seen he'd be the last person endorse a values-neutral approach to child rearing.

Dick Wilde

Ducky's here said...

I think that American parents should teach their children about the value of frugality and rejecting an opulent lifestyle.

And kill the economy?

How could the invisible hand allow that? We are prisoners of comfort.

The best thing you can do is try to come to teach your children and come to a separate peace although the demands to consume are not going to abate.

KP said...

I didn't grow up with much in the way of material things but it turns out I was quite wealthy; because I never had to wonder whether my parents loved me. I didn't know it then, but everything wheels off that basic need to be loved when we are young.

My dad was strict, but he was fair and consistent. Because he was fair and consistent I had the opportunity to adapt and avoid trouble. What blows is if a parent is inconsistent. That will f-up a little mind.

I recall being disciplined and holding an intense anger at my dad. But I always loved him more than I 'hated' him for those brief periods. And since he was consistent, I had to accept some degree of responsibility for my predicament. This meant I could never stay mad for very long; and neither could he.

And that's how it is with my wife and kids. I love them; at times I may feel angry at each of them for different reasons; but I always love them more than I am angry at them.

If we can figure this equation out, life is pretty darned happy.

Today, besides the love of my family, my wealth means feeling the warmth of the sun, the chance to stare at or swim in the ocean, be near very large trees and rocks. I can do all of that while cycling. Pretty spartan.

I still don't own much and have very little cash on hand, but I do feel wealthy and my twenty something daughters feel the same way.

If we are fair and consistent we will never have to wonder if our children love us. It's a natural!

That must have been fun for your mom to do a little shopping for the grandkids. I look forward to that :-)

FreeThinke said...

Give All To Love

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-fame,
Plans, credit, and the Muse,-
Nothing refuse.
'Tis a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But it is a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
It was not for the mean;
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
It will reward,-
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.
Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,-
Keep thee today,
To-morrow, forever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture's hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

FreeThinke said...


Are you still there?


We miss you.

Come out. Come out -- wherever you are.

~ FT