With the holiday season behind us, I can’t help but sit back and reflect on the past few months. I look at what’s going on in the world, and then at my own little bubble of life, one that I am far too lucky (and grateful) to have. I love the holidays, not so much the stressful side of it, but just the smell of Christmas in my home makes me feel so happy and warm every day. The decorating is so much fun, especially with little ones.
However, it only takes a moment for me to really question…how much is too much? Why do we feel the need to buy every single gift, and then some, simply because our child glanced at in the store? I was listening to NPR recently and heard two young men who were discussing their new lives as minimalists. They talked about how they had so much stuff and constantly felt the need to accumulate more things in order to fill a void, or be happy, but in fact they were miserable. Once they got rid of all the “stuff” and lived with only the necessities of life, they were much happier. Now let’s pause for a minute…these two men were young and one had just gone through a divorce. Neither had children. I think it is safe to say that it’s much easier to live such a simple life when you only have yourself to worry or care for. For most of us with families, living in such an minimalist way would be much harder.
Although living a minimalist lifestyle seems pretty difficult with children, it did make me stop and think about all the stuff I had just purchased for my two-and-a-half year old for Christmas. I wondered which of it she really needed, or would even continue to like, even just an hour after opening it. I could think of nothing. On Christmas morning she had more joy in opening and handing out the gifts than the tangible item in each bag or box. We don’t typically go overboard with presents. We try to stick to the 4(ish) rule (something to read, need, wear and want). No, it’s not due to financial reasons. It is due to recognizing the actual importance of Christmas and not needing more than what we already have. Later on Christmas day, I was looking at Facebook and Instagram and I was in shock. I’ve never seen so many gifts and things not only for the children, but adults as well. Living rooms filled with presents…where were people going to put all this stuff?
This year for Christmas my husband kept apologizing for not getting me enough gifts. I was in shock that he thought I needed gifts to begin with. Having an amazing and healthy family and being with them in a warm home was enough for me and always will be. I did receive a new cutting knife, book, and shoes and that was perfect! It was all I wanted because I knew they were all things I actually needed and would use almost everyday.
When is enough, enough?
Where do we draw the line with the gift giving? Yes, it’s great to see the look on your kids face when they open up something they really wanted. But how many of those wanted items do there need to be? Have we completely forgotten that memories are what keep us alive and going and not material things? Maybe we all need to sit back and think of ways to create more memories and do more as families. Let that be the present, rather than fighting someone in line just to buy a Hatchimal. It makes me sad to see so many children with tech toys and iPhones or iPads. To think of all that lost time spent playing an game online rather than laughing with family makes my heart hurt. If you’re shelling out money for expensive gifts, then your’re constantly going to have to outdo yourself in the years to come. And what if in the years to come, you don’t have the funds to get your children or significant others every gift on their wish list? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children that these gifts should be just that, gifts? They aren’t what makes the time or memories special.
Kids today have become so spoiled by getting everything and anything they want. It is not always the parent’s fault either. The media, advertising, marketers, they all ingrain into our child’s head that they have to have something. Are we buying and consuming so much just to fill a void? How many of you can honestly say that you use every single thing you receive for Christmas? I don’t ever want my children to feel like they need more, more, more presents, or more of anything really. We can’t spend life buying and consuming more than we absolutely need and believe me, we don’t need much. Children should appreciate that they have a parent or parents who work hard to give them anything in life and that gifts should not be plentiful. Mom and dad shouldn’t live paycheck to paycheck or go into debt just so their kids can have the latest and greatest. We need to be teaching our children that those items won’t bring them happiness, but going to the beach and playing, or simply laughing and having that time together, is what will.
Maybe in the years to come we will all reflect more about what we really needed, not just what we wanted. Maybe we will think more about what it really takes to make others happy, and why it is that we think about the material things first? It is time to refocus and retrain ourselves to live life without so much consumption.