Whether it stems solely from biology or is impacted by society as well, we seem innately programmed to want the best for our kids. To want even better for them than we had ourselves. And for the past 5.5 years, that's what I thought I had been giving them.
As a pregnant first time-mom, this meant purchasing every baby gizmo and gadget, brand spanking new, for our pending arrival. There was no play yard too pricey and no crib too costly. We wanted only the best for our babe.
Then, after he made his debut, "wanting the best" for him morphed into Pinterest-worthy first birthday parties with custom cookies, themed fare, and a decorative gumball wreath that I (true story) spent around seven hours hot gluing together.
As our family grew, our determination to provide the best for them did as well. Over-the-top Christmases that left our chubby toddlers nearly shoulder deep in wrapping paper were commonplace as was standing in line for hours in an effort to snag the latest hard to score, "must-have" toy of the season.
While I've known for some time now that "stuff" was not the key to achieving my own happiness, I missed that memo when it came to my kids. For some reason, I bought into the idea that they needed stuff to be happy and I was hell bent on providing it. Between my own misguided attempts at creating a happy childhood for my boys, and the perpetual bombardment of advertisements targeting them, a seemingly unquenchable thirst for things has been instilled in my kids.
This is not the life I want for my children.
This life of complete and utter excess...chock full of poorly made toys that either break instantaneously or quickly become an afterthought strewn about the playroom floor. A few years down the road, I'm sure the cost of making my children "happy" will likely increase exponentially. Their wish lists will simply upgrade from cheap, plastic toys to brand name clothes, tech, and expensive after school extracurriculars. That'll all add up quickly...but to what end?
As their parent, this is not what I want to give them
Instead, I want to save up that money that would have been wasted on accumulating stuff and give them something truly priceless. Perhaps, their first glimpse of a 1,000 year old painted Italian ceiling, that stirs up feelings inside them that they didn't know existed. Or the chance to skip rocks off of glistening coastal waters, that remind them of just how small they are in this big world.
The opportunity to meet new people, and potentially make new friends. To immerse themselves in other cultures and courageously venture out of their comfort zones and into uncharted territories.
To completely dismantle their parochial points of view and truly show them the world.
In the life I want to give them, I would give my kids my undivided attention. As opposed to my half-hearted attempts to spend meaningful time together, while I scurry about the house, in a futile effort to clean up all the stuff we've accrued. I want to give them the (largely exaggerated) stories of our childhoods; as recounted on the laps of their grandparents. I want to give them time spent together as a family; making memories that are so amazing that they become forever etched into the fabric of their tiny minds.
In lieu of things, I want to give them so much more. I want to provide them with the real keys to lifelong happiness...none of which can be bought in a store.