Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I don't want her to have everything. There. I said it.

I have been practising the art of not-blogging until I have something to say. Did you even notice? (I have so many things to say, I can rarely keep off here for longer than a week....)

Well. I have something to say now. About Christmas and consumerism.


Oh, Christmas. How I love, loathe, repel, adore thee.

Last night, our little Lolly graduated from four year-old kinder. We embark officially now on the the looooooongest six weeks of our lives, she and I. The month before her first year of school.

It's also the time where I put to question my position on Christmas presents for our child. While I don't think we go overboard, Steve and I, we certainly give the LGBB a good variety of little presents. We've noticed they usually get drowned in comparison to what is lavished on her from the family at large though. It sits uneasily with us. We tactfully ask that we "keep it small" on the gifts for the kids. But still we are greeted with this desire to give. Over-give. It feels so wasteful on the one hand. On the other, it is still quite a lot less than so many privileged children receive.

I know my thoughts on it on the surface, but I asked myself the other day whether I truly wanted my child to "have everything" - a term I hear so often used. After a good deal of consideration, I can say that .... no. I don't want my child to have everything. Experience everything. I know the experience thing is ultimately not up to me; much of that is going to be decided by her and the path she takes through life (which I know first-hand is rarely the one you think you're set to take). But the having everything is certainly within my control - for the most part - for now.

While all around her Lolly is encountering peers with iPods and every age-appropriate toy money can buy, we are setting a consistent and steady pace with our gifts to her. I cannot comment on what it is like in any other household, but I can safely attest to a child who does not expect a treat at every supermarket check-out. She is not influenced by the unstoppable consumerism of children's programming interspersed with advertisements for this and that because we simply do not allow commercials in our home. We avoid them by not allowing commercial TV to be viewed 'live' and record the shows on these stations to watch later, ad's skipped. Peace! Divine. And honestly, I really do think it does make a difference not having them in her face. When she sees these commercials, she invariably asks if she can "have one", whatever it is, because it looks fun. Of course it does! That's the advertising team's job. Well done, them.

Rarely, the LGBB and I will watch a show that is on at prime time and I am agog with the amount of bombardment that occurs via advertising. It isn't long before I click away from that channel because it just feels so forceful if you've been out of that loop, as we have now for several years. These commercials always show joyous children happy to push around this toy or that, comb something through a doll's hair, make ridiculously perfect-looking jewellery.... I know it NEVER is as easy as it appears on the commercials. I know that if we were to be suckered in to buying the product, it'd frustrate my kid to tears because she can't get it to look "the same" or get the doll to have such fluid movements.

I recall my own deep disappointment with Sand Magic, when I couldn't make anything remotely resembling the Taj Mahal with my coloured underwater sand. The best I got were two poo-shaped lumps and the majority of the sand was rinsed away down the sink at the end because, hey, nowhere on the box was it recommended you do it in a tub of water. I was only eight, after all. Bastards.

Magic Shmagic  - Image

So now we're in this funny place of asking Lolly if she has an idea of what she would like Santa to bring her. She has only one thing she'd love more than anything else....

"A rainbow unicorn and a shed for him to sleep in."

"...........Ummmmmmmm...... anything else?" I asked her hopefully. There wasn't anything else. I was given no other ideas.

I nipped that one in the bud (a stroke of genius that came to me like a bolt out of the blue, thankfully) and explained that unicorns cannot be owned, otherwise their magic goes away. They are beautiful, free creatures that can't be kept as pets, else their wonder and mystery dies.... She bought it.

I caught myself feeling disgruntled at my daughter's lack of.... want! Of making it easier for me to buy her things that made her heart fill to absolute bursting when she opened the wrapping paper. She and I have been out of kilter with each other for a few weeks - an "I love Dad more than you, sorry Mum" (yes, she actually said that!) phase - and I was getting to the point of needing to bridge the gap. Using a method that I know is so counter-productive. Buying her affection for me. What the hell?!?

She further bedded in my big lesson yesterday when out of the blue, I was landed with a whopping great kiss and a hug and told that she wanted to write "I love Mum" in all the kinder class Christmas cards we had been making together all afternoon. Now if that was not an obvious example for me that all I need to do in order to be in her good graces is spend quality, productive time together, I don't know what will point it out to me. Sure, I could get the same affection if I bought her everything her heart desires. But that seems a rather short-lived way of doing it, with no possible end to the amount of money I would need to spend to keep impressing her.

How often do we desire to have something that we cannot have? Something that doesn't eventuate? Just because we see others with one does it mean it is our right to have one too? If we give, give, give all these toys, when else does she learn about being selective? About not over-indulging? About considering those less fortunate?

It seems we have somewhat successfully created a child who has so far dodged the consumerism bullet. Whether she is completely innoculated, time will tell. But we are going to be resisting as passively as we can, her father and I, all the crazes and must-haves of her generation. She will never go without. But I feel it our duty to instill in her an awareness, that hers is a life of abundance, making do with what she has and what comes her way, regardless of all the things she does not possess.

These might be viewed as concepts too far over a young child's head. But I don't believe there is any age too young to teach compassion and awareness of others. Consistently showing and persistently leading an example of whatever values you uphold as a parent, these are naturally going to become part of that child's expectation and view of their world.

I know we all give a little (or a lot) and we also accept what we are given (for the most part). But do we stop often enough to indulge the little voice that might be asking us to look at the example we are setting to the young people in our lives? I know I don't stop often enough.... and I'm diligent about it!

What is your take on giving gifts at Christmas?

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