The other day I noticed at my eldest daughter’s school a wish list the Prep teacher had done with the whole class. It was a great idea…each of the children listed on a big class stocking what they would like for Christmas. But on closer inspection I got a bit of a shock…more than 1/2 the girl population of the class asked for an IPod touch. These children are 5 and 6 years old…WHY do they want an IPod touch (I actually didn’t know what it really was until I was looking through a huge pile of store catalogues yesterday). It made me think about the true meaning of Christmas and what we really want for our children.
In the words of Madonna “We’re living in a material world and I’m a material girl”…is this what we want for our children? I know that some of these children just see their parents with different devices and they want to mimic this, but will parents really buy them these things or be more logical and realise this? What messages are we sending to our children? $200 dollar Christmas presents…is this the meaning of Christmas?
This begs the question “What do we want for Christmas?” Will more things fill the void of the time we don’t get to spend with our children and family? I know some may think that this is harsh, but really how much “stuff” does a child need and why do we all feel the need to fill our life with more stuff than we actually use?
My own home is a testament to this. I know I have too much stuff and I know that my children have too much stuff…but really this is not my fault…I didn’t buy it! As I am a big reuse, recycle and renew person, many things are donations from family and friends (because they wanted to buy new stuff and they know I like old things). My children are over run by toys due to the gift giving habits of family and friends. Last year my children were given so many toys at once by direct family members that we had unopened presents at the end of the day…they got sick of opening presents! I’m a big believer in the “one present” rule + maybe clothes and $50 ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM budget for my children, unless “infrastructure” toys (like ” trampoline” type group gifts).
It is my belief that most parents want to do what is best for their children, however what is best is different in everyone’s eyes. I believe that children need time (not “Quality Time”). Scheduling outings and timetabling when to read a book is not time. I believe time with children is sitting on the grass out the back having a chat. A day not long ago, all the kids were playing out the back, I all of sudden noticed Olivia (eldest age 6) laying on her back on the grass, watching the sky. I went and lay with her. After a few moments I asked her what she was doing…”Watching the sky and clouds”. So we watched them together. The other kids then joined us. And we chatted. These are THE moments. It doesn’t matter how many electronic devices a child has or things to clutter their life, these little moments are the real thing…blink though and you’ll miss it.
Recently I was forced (through injury) to slow down. Life was getting to an ever increasing frantic pace between having 3 fulltime jobs (1st and I believe most important, full time mum, 2nd owner of Rose3 and 3rd Home Operations Manager) and then I was forced to stop. When you do stop, you would be amazed at how little of the stuff you think is so important, you really need.
Are we passing on to our children this frantic need for more and more things, and therefore we need to work more and more hours and be away from home and our kids more and more to get more and more stuff…is this really “living the dream”!? Or could we do without a few things and live a richer life WITH our family instead entertaining our family so we can get things done (so we can get even more stuff!)
For example our household operates with 1 television, yes we share with the kids (we did get a TV donated to the cause but I didn’t want it in the house, now is in the shed), no cable TV – there are now lots of free to air, why pay for it!, no portable devices in cars – we talk as we drive along and do not run air conditioners in the house– that’s what our back patio is for, being in the breeze, also why we do not need a clothes dryer. These are choices we have made for many reasons, both environmental and lifestyle. This also means our cost of living lowers and we can have more time together as a family. I’ve already said the mobile rule in our house is “you can have one when you can pay the bill”. Let’s see when our kids are older how many battles will rage over that one!
Has the cost of living and bringing up children really gone up, or has the equipment list we now believe we need for life just increased? Are these things needs or wants?
If children had a choice would they really prefer the IPod Touch for $200.00 or the 5-10 hours (depending on your hourly rate) of time with them that parents spend at work to buy them this gift? I know many have no choice about the hours spent at work but it’s worth thinking about…
Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy this time of family and friends, you deserve it and so do they!