Thursday, March 20, 2008

Balancing the Bunny

She did it again, she did. My mind-twin, Megan, has once again posted a thought-provoking blog entry that has inspired me to write out said thoughts as a way of working through them.

I am so, so guilty of ritualistic consumption. Before the birth of my son a few months ago, a Monday just wasn't a Monday without a trip to Starbucks following a grocery shopping run with my daughter. There are certain times of year or even mood swings that simply seem to require the purchase of something...whether it be a new pair of sandals at the first sign of Spring, or a baked good loaded with chocolate when I need a pick-me-up. It's not something I particularly enjoy about myself, but there you have it.

Holiday seasons, however, most definitely bring the most challenges to my love/hate relationship with "stuff". Easter weekend in my childhood years was full of "things"...a brand-new dress, often paired with hat and gloves and corsage, and a basket filled with sweets and goodies and hidden somewhere downstairs for us to gleefully hunt on Sunday morning. Mark and I negotiated this point a bit when determining how to celebrate the season with our kids, as his Easters in growing-up years contained far less...er...fluff. And because, let's be honest, spending money in any capacity isn't something he jumps up and down about. (Love you, honey.) But he's fine with each of the kids wearing a new outfit on Easter morning, so long as it fits the constraints of our clothing budget, and he relented on the Easter basket debate (we keep them verrrrry basic).

I struggled at times with the question of whether or not these froufrou indulgences would diminish the true meaning of the Easter holiday. But I've determined that this no longer concerns me all that much. Even with all of the Easter extravaganza of long ago times, I still very much knew as a child that what really made the day special was the celebration of Christ's victory over death. And I've decided that it's much more important to ensure that both the birth and resurrection of Jesus be truths that are held close in our hearts and minds as a family year-round. The holiday hoopla, reindeer and rabbits, stockings and baskets, candy canes and jelly beans can be modestly embraced without undue paranoia as festive ways to mark the seasons, but we will do our best (God, help us) to make the deeper meanings a part of daily life.

There is an element in all of this that does cause me some alarm, however. And that is the fear that our kids (mine, and in society in general) will pay the price for our growing obsession with stuff, stuff, STUFF. I took a trip to Target the other day to pick up a couple of small items to put in the kids' baskets, and I was in complete shock standing in the holiday-themed aisles. Not kidding, it looked as though the Easter bunny had fallen into a blender along with Dora the Explorer, the Sesame Street gang, Mr. Potato Head and a box of pastel crayons and then someone had turned said blender on high and removed the lid. And don't get me started on the candy. Every form of sweet confection in existence...now in convenient egg form! So. Much. Stuff. And all of it for one season. I stood there reeling in front of the shelves and shelves of chocolate bunny choices and wondered just how much we're all messing up our kids by buying into this. Because here's the thing: as nauseous as it all made me, it got to me too. I found myself picking up several knick-knacks and thinking, "Ooo, Maya would really like this Elmo/bunny Pez dispenser...", and "Hmm...I could spend a bit more money and get her the chocolate bunny that's twice as big and wearing a dress..."

I had to work hard to restrain myself from those purchases, and then I walked away feeling guilty! Why?!? I mean I know that part of it is because I love my daughter and want to give her things that will bring her delight. But I know a lot of it is this keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thing that I so easily fall into. I was part of a conversation the other day where a friend asked, "So, what are your kids getting for Easter?" Totally threw me. Is this what Easter's becoming now? Another Christmas? Because I struggle then too. The part of me that shudders when I see mounds of gifts under Christmas trees wrestles with the part of me that wants to shower my kids with everything I know they'd enjoy...or at least enjoy for five minutes. And now it's happening with Valentine's Day too. There are some circles in which I feel awkward admitting that I *gasp* didn't get my children anything on February 14th. But seriously, when did that become traditional? Did I miss the memo? What's next - 4th of July buckets filled with red, white, and blue M&Ms and Cookie Monster waving a flag? Chocolate turkeys at each child's place at Thanksgiving?

It frightens me, because mine is the generation that is said to have "entitlement issues". But for all of my daily struggles with addiction to STUFF, I didn't have nearly the amount of things handed to me that I could easily hand to my children. And I worry that I will totally mess them up. Or that they'll hate me when they go to school and find out that the Easter bunny brought the kid at the next desk an egg-shaped Playstation or something.

So yeah, that's where I'm at. I've made my peace with a small amount of holiday "stuff", not wanting to fall into the reaction mode of boycotting it altogether. But I do see the downward spiral looming in front of me...and I fear that one day I'll push my Target cart too close to the edge and find that I've set my kids up for a life where they expect everything and are thankful for nothing. Lord, help me...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lessons from life with a 3-year-old - An ongoing list...

#1 - Concepts often elude them.

(This morning as Mark is in the bathroom, Maya is laying on her stomach outside the locked door, peering under the crack at the bottom and yelling at full volume...)

"DADDY!! DO YOU WANT SOME PRIVACY?!?"



#2 - Reasoning with them is futile.

(Yesterday, after she requested raisins for her afternoon snack, and I walked by to notice that she had eaten half of them and left the other half neatly in one side of her bowl...)

Me: "Are you going to finish your raisins?"
Maya: "No, these ones are yucky."
Me: "They're yucky? Why?"
Maya: "Because I don't want to eat them."
Me: "Why don't you want to eat them?"
Maya: "Because they're yucky."
Me: "Ok, but why are those raisins yucky?"
Maya: "Because we should throw them away."
Me (taking deep breath, trying one more time): "Ok, what makes them yucky?"
Maya (shooting me an exasperated look): "Me!"

[I give up]