15 Nov

a new breed of catalogs have made their way into our house in the massive surge of holiday mail intended to expose children to all possible things to ask santa/parents/family/the abominable snowman/etc. for. i remember catalogs coming to our house as a kid. not a lot of separate ones but big ones for service merchandise and sears and probably something else. (as an aside what ever happened to those huge catalogs?). i recall paging through them and circling items that seemed like they would be great. and that i had to have. we weren’t spoiled as kids. my parents did not have a ton of money but i never felt like we went without. i do recall asking for things and not getting them. and i think that was a good thing. at no time in life can we really get all that we ask for. it just doesn’t work that way. do i remember now what those things were? nope. but i do remember some of the gifts i received through the years because they were significant. and well thought out. not just purchased on a passing whim. because that wasn’t really possible.and that was a good thing.

and now we have our own kids. hook is at the point where he is a consumer. he is the sweet spot in the audience that commercials are geared toward. and he thinks almost everything is awesome. and a lot of it is. but just because it may be awesome does not mean we need it in our house. even before hook was born m and i had strong opinions about gifts and holidays and charity. we both partake in charitable events and volunteer on a regular basis. this is something that we want to instill in our children. giving is more important than receiving. helping those who are less fortunate is the right thing to do. this is so difficult to explain to a child. one of the ways we have done this (i must admit it has been on a somewhat inconsistent basis) is to have hook find a toy to donate for each toy he receives for his bday or xmas. so 5 news toys in, 5 old toys out. it is helpful when we make it happen. not only does it reinforce the idea that donating is good. but it also helps to minimize clutter. (this is a principle that would apply well in all areas of my life i think. at least with material goods. new shirt in. donate one out. i am trying to work on this.) all of this sounds good in theory. and it really is great in practice. but here is the rub. we have spoiled hook. as an only child for so long we definitely overindulged in his wants. we bought him too many toys. and clothes. we paid far too much for things. and in some ways he has come to expect it. this is not what we want. having things to play with is great. but really a bunch of cheaply made crud isn’t what he ends up playing with most days anyway. he loves his le.gos. and to draw pictures. and make books. and play games. these are the things that occupy more of his time than anything else (except when we let him watch too much tv). and yet we keep piling on unnecessary things. as does extended family. not living near family tends to make them think that gifts can fill the void of time together. it doesn’t. he doesn’t really know who sends him what. and much of it gets tossed to the wayside quickly after it arrives. this isn’t to say hook isn’t appreciative. because he is. he always thanks people. and talks about how generous they are. but i’m still not sure he gets it. he talks about giving some of his toys to the babies. or to other kids. but again because he really hasn’t had to want for much in his life it isn’t the easiest thing to impress upon him that some kids have no food at home. let alone books or toys. gah. so what is there to do? we have definitely cut back. not only because i am no longer gainfully employed and we have two extra mouths to feed. but because we are also refocusing our efforts on the important things in our lives. time together. experiences that will be remembered. spending time with family and friends. meals shared. laughing. going outside and playing. the wigglers have toys. and sometimes i have to stop myself from buying more. most of the ones they have are ones that i saved from when hook was little. and the wigglers certainly don’t care. they don’t know the difference. recently i sold off some of the baby gear we had and picked up a few things at a consignment shop. for the holidays. i gave them one thing and it is their new favorite toy. it cost $3. children don’t care about prices. they don’t need something new all the time. as i dive into xmas shopping i am trying to keep all of this in mind. the wigglers birthday is 9 days before xmas. 9 days. they don’t actually need anything right now. we have clothes. and books. and toys. but more importantly we have happiness. and laughter. and smiles. hook also has no need for anything so we are making a concerted effort to be conscious of this. and give him fewer things. things that he actually mentions more than once before we run out to the store to pick them up. that isn’t doing any of us any favors. this year we also adopted a family for the holidays. and we are getting hook involved in picking out items for the family members. what tops their lists? clothes. shirts. pants. socks. most kids would get those things and not be pleased. getting hook to see that is eye opening. and he is starting to get a better understanding of the true difference between needs and wants. as a parent i think i often fall into the trap of not wanting my child to have to “want” for anything. when really what they need are the things we are already giving them.

i’m not entirely sure what i am getting at. but i think i needed to get this all out as a reminder. to myself.


One Response to “charity”

  1. Kristen 6 WedUTC2011-11-16T00:26:36+00:00UTC11bUTCWed, 16 Nov 2011 00:26:36 +0000 2009 at 12:26 AM #

    I think it is wonderful that you and M do this. I love the idea of have N donate one of his old toys for each new one that he receives. It’s a tough thing to teach children (at least, I imagine it is, not really knowing, as this is my first!) but the important thing is that you are trying, and Hook is learning 🙂

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