Monday, October 22, 2012
Parenting in the 21st Century
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?