January 4, 2017
I don’t want to seem holier than thou but I have been thinking a lot about stuff- like, literal stuff. A friend of mine recently put up a picture on her Instagram of her son in this really fancy and expensive (and so fucking nice) snowsuit and, surprise surprise, it made me feel bad. The whole social media making people feel like shit is a real thing (although not one I am delving into this second) and it worked. I began to wonder if I was failing you as a parent for not providing you with similar snowsuit- like things. Would you be as happy as you could ever be with just a moderately priced snowsuit- who knows?
And that made me mad because I am a totally rational and sane person who knows better than to get swept up in the bullshit of stuff. I know just as well as anyone that a great snowsuit does not a happy child make. I mean, I hope this kid is super happy and has a wonderful life but I don’t think it will have anything to do with the level of expense spent on his winter gear. I know that for sure and without a doubt.
Yet… I found myself on a designer baby website with a cart full of clothing that you don’t need ready to spend on you what I would NEVER spend on myself in one foul swoop all motivated by my insecurity at this fucking snowsuit. Sorry to tell you Baby, I closed the window, scolded myself for being a fucking moron and moved on with my life. You never got to own that $150 T shirt and we are all better for it.
And of course, this made me think about the way in which we as parents- and we as people- have this weird sort of under the table competition for stuff. Like, if your stuff is nicer, you will be better. People might like you more if you have nicer clothes and you will be happier with more things. This is only shot down by the way you watch a kid who just got the biggest and most expensive toy around and only wants to play with the box. This shit doesn’t matter even a quarter as much as we imagine it does.
So with some sense of “aha” I found this Podcast called “Minimalism” and a specific episode of it on parenting that discusses just this issue. The mass consumption of toys, clothes, classes and things that we “need” to have to raise the best kid possible. How do kids even become happy people if they don’t have fucking tents and fancy organic toys (again, not to sound so holy because we have a fucking Volkswagon VW tent that can fit 3 grown adults sitting in our basement with a life size “Big” piano so…)But it made me think about some of our friends who embrace a mindful and minimal life and are some of the happiest people I know. They NEVER have fancy clothing (they in fact, purchase all of their clothing at the Salvation Army because they think clothes are dumb), they don’t have any fancy toys and the kid goes to free drop-in programs for recreation. She and her mom are brilliant, wonderful people who don’t seem at all to be envious or wanting of anything.
This is contrasted by friend of ours that have EVERYTHING. Every toy (kids and adult), every clothing item, every cool new thing,- are they WAY happier people for it? I mean, maybe. I hope they are happy but I highly doubt that in the face of something bad, their awesome shoes would save them. Know what I mean?
Something that the podcast really identified that resonated with me was that reducing your consumption of stuff will, by default, reduce your overall carbon footprint. Buying less produces less. Having less produces less and this really hit home. As parents, we work so hard to better the lives of our kids but what kind of life are we leaving them? A world with infinite possibility and one that we have taken terrible care of. I want you to grow up in a world where you can actually still see the world, where it is safe to be outside and breath the air and where we have water and food. This is a pretty big statement but it’s like, who gives a shit if you have a fucking book that is supposed to make you a child genius or a cool pair of organic pants if you don’t have a planet to grow up and thrive on. So in essence, the consumption of less stuff is the single best thing I can do for you to help you achieve the greatest success I can imagine for you.
But before I drink the Kool Aid and just reject all consumerism I will be honest and say that somewhere between having nothing and having it all there is a balance. We are not going to take our carbon footprint from 100 to 0 but we can certainly do what we can, when we can to try to temper the urge to have it all. Want is a very powerful desire and one that we can indulge every now and then but if you can safely say “we have everything” you should probably clean out your shit.
I am for sure going to keep buying you (and me) things we don’t need- it’s just going to happen but I think where I can make a change is to:
1. Not do it as often as I do
2. Not think that it is going to make any of us better or happier people.
I think an achievable family goal is to understand that stuff is nice- stuff is really fun but stuff does not define you nor make you better. Stuff won’t make you prettier, smarter or more genuine. Stuff will just make you a person who has stuff.
So sure, your friend has a crazy snowsuit, you have crazy things, other people do an don’t have things but our ultimate happiness and success will be defined by who we are, not by what we have and what we wear. Even if it is a really cute snowsuit…