Friday, July 18, 2008

Is More Always Better?

One of the very best things I've ever read about parenting and frugality came, of course, from the Tightwad Gazette (where else, really?). It was the section about Christmas, and how the more gifts we give the child, the LESS pleasure the child receives from gifts. Oh and doesn't Laura Ingalls Wilder back this up, in her account of how thrilled she was to receive an orange and a store-bought cookie in her Christmas stocking?

I think we all know this is true from our own children, right? One gift is AWESOME. Gift number 10 (or 30)? Well, they couldn't care less by then.

While this isn't exactly the same thing, we decided this summer to take the season off activities. No Kindermusik, no sports, no summer preschool programs, no art classes. In fact, if you can believe it, we haven't even been to the public pool.

What have we been doing? Going to the park. Wading in the baby pool in our back yard. Going to the library. Coloring and painting and drawing and practicing our letters. Running through the sprinkler. Walking around the block. Taking the t-ball set to the baseball diamonds. Going to rummage sales! :)

This week, for the first time this summer, we went to a pool (my sister was in town and we swam at her hotel). The kids had a blast! And last night, for the first time this summer, they rode the restored carousel at the park. And D shouted, "I LOVE this!"

Well, if they love it, wouldn't they love to do it every night? Hm. I don't really know about that.

How special is something if you do it every day? At what point do you stop having gratitude and start having expectation? At what point does something stop being exciting and start being ho-hum?

My parents took me ice skating every winter. I have good memories of those times, of lacing up my skates and going out on the ice, wobbly ankles and all, and coming home to hot chocolate. But I don't really know, honestly, if we went once per winter or once per week. I remember it the same either way.

Would I turn down a season pass to the water park if someone decided that would make a great birthday present for the kids? No way. Do I feel that my kids are missing out if we only go one time this summer instead of 100 times? Nope.

Soon enough, my little ones will be big ones with activities and games and practice and recitals. But for now? Well, I'm happy to watch them run around my back yard. Because it's enough.

12 comments:

Sarah Beth said...

AMEN! When my husband and I were youth pastors we found that the kids were so busy being little adults with all their meetings and events that they never got the chance to be a carefree, schedule free kid. None of them knew how to entertain themselves because they'd always been entertained. I pray that my child(ren) will learn the value of "being content in any situation" and to be a truly thankful person. I hope 10,000 people read this post--it's a message so many parents need to hear. Kids don't need outside activities...they need parents who are there to show them the true characteristics of the Lord-His Love, His discipline, His creativity, His Encouragement, His forgiveness, and His patience. I thank God I grew up poor. I've learned so much. Thanks for your honesty.

Tenille said...

Thanks Sarah Beth! Your comment warms my heart today!

Jamie said...

We have a one activity rule per child. Which means, if the girls continue with Ballet, they cannot also play a sport because Ballet is a school year long activity. Not only do I want the kiddos to have time to hang out at home and be kids, playing in the dirt and building a makeshift fort among the Briar bushes they are clearing... but I also need time for me to not be running all over the place!

I have asked family to limit holiday gifts to one per child. This seldom works, we end up with so much stuff that they can't enjoy it or play with it all. I put a lot of it in the cabinet, unopened to pull out on a rainy afternoon one at a time.

It is so easy to fall into the go go go trap, to constantly run from sport to play group to music class to art camp. I just CAN't. With five kids, I'd never stop.

:) Enjoy your careful, unscheduled summer!
Jamie

zdoodlebub said...

Perfectly stated. I love it!

Carrie said...

GREAT POST Tenille! Creative deprivation is something I fully believe in too!(thanks to that wonderful tightwad gazette! I really think we have all the same books! lol)

But I would reword it... it's more like "creative appreciation!"

Your kids aren't deprived in the least! They are happy and having fun and they will enjoy things more if they don't do them as often. My husband and I have learned this lesson as well! When we were dating, we went to the movies and out to dinner nearly every week. And actually it got kind of old.

Now we go maybe once every two months and it's a huge deal. It's something we really look forward to do together and it means so much more!! Our more common dates now are walking about the neighborhood, going to the library, figuring out what to plant in the yard, taking a walk through Lowe's and dreaming of the things we'll eventually do the house, having his parents over for dinner and fellowship, etc...

I know when we have children we will follow this model as well.

Stacey said...

You could't be more right about too many. When I got divorced I felt bad for the kids. We had left everything we owned at our home in Kansas. I started buying everything they wanted no matter the time or the place. The toys were appreciated for a day or so and then thrown in the toybox never to be touched again. Because of the overwhelming amount of "stuff" my kids never learned to apreciate or take care of anything. They always knew they would get more soon. It wasn't until I bought my daughter her second Ipod and third cell phone that my brother pointed out the fact that she will loose these as well. He told me "She has no reason to take care of them, you'll just buy her another." It was like a slap in the face and from then on I haven't purchased one toy or game since. Of course they will still get on their birthday but not until. I wish I could go back and do it right the first time!!!!

huddtoo said...

Oh I hear ya!

I loved the epi of Little House where Laura was so excited to get a candy cane as a gift. Imagine that! She would always just look at that candy jar at the Olsen's and smile. I loved that simplicity. I love that show! :)

There are days that I have a hard time not buying extra stuff...just because it's on sale. I've been trying to keep low key, trying to save more, make sure we don't have a lot of debt, etc. I get in a rut when I'm busy...like now. We are trying to get one house ready to sell, we are trying to get started on building another, we are working on a business plan. Just to much. I'm glad there aren't many summer sports here. My kids do one thing at a time. The girl did softball in spring. They both do soccer in the fall. I can't be trucking them to umpteen things at the same time.

Sorry to ramble. Oh, I checked out some pics.. I LOVE that maternity one that is dark, I can only assume it's you. LOL The one where you can't see your face. Very cool

Tenille said...

Yep, that's me in the maternity photo. Though I'm much bigger now! :)

Shamelessly Sassy said...

This is truly a great post.

Sarah said...

Great post Tenille. While I think Kindermusik is great, it's good to have time off. But don't forget to enroll in the fall! (Can you tell I'm a musician?)

RonaldJ said...

Well, if they love it, wouldn't they love to do it every night? Hm. I don't really know about that.

Our family loves camping, but the thought of waking up EVERY morning in a tent sounds a bit depressing, doesn't it? ;-)

Excellent post.

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