Wii and Sympathy

25 Mar

So we’re driving home from a playdate the other day and Hank starts crying. “All my friends have better toys than I do,” he wails.   I try to bring up Legos and tell him his toys are super.  But the truth is most of his friends really do have better toys than he does.  Way better. At least in the conventional way of thinking. The reasons for this are partly financial and partly philosophical.  For one thing, we exist on a moderate and (unfortunately) rather variable single income in the richest spot in the country.  But more importantly, I just don’t believe in buying my kids a bunch of crap they don’t need. I’d rather concentrate on steering them toward imaginative and/or outdoor play.

Until recently, the material deprivation thing wasn’t much of an issue–mostly because we don’t really watch television and my kids had no idea what they were missing.  And for years, I didn’t really have the energy for playdates—we just hung out at our local playground all the time. Now that the boy’s in kindergarten, he spends more time in other people’s houses, and his state of blissful ignorance is fading fast. Ever since he hit elementary school, he has so many wants, few if any of which come from media.  Which leads me to wonder: does peer pressure (or maybe at this age it’s really just peer influence) exert a stronger pull than advertising?

Lately our discussions have mostly been about Wii.  There are so many reasons I don’t want a Wii, foremost being the fact that it contradicts my efforts to orient my kids away from the television set. Frankly, I just don’t get the whole video gaming thing. This, along with pot smoking, was a deal breaker when I was looking for a life partner (I’m happy to report that the ever lovin’ engages in neither).  But pretty much everybody around here has a Wii, and it seems to come out at every playdate.  Apparently all the five year olds are doing it. While I’m not wild about it, I’ve never asked any of Hank’s friends’ parents to refrain from busting it out.  My theory has been that as long as the games are age appropriate, it won’t hurt him to play a couple times a month.  But I don’t want it in our house.

I’m thinking this is just a first taste of life as an anti-materialist in a mecca of material excess.  What am I going to do when my kids get older? I mean, you should see the parking lots at the local high schools.  As some of my readership is aware, I’m an avowed minimalist.  I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to avoid the accumulation of things.  I’ve grudgingly come to accept that there’s a certain amount of stuff that accompanies parenthood.  I suppose the key is to make sure it’s the right stuff and try to keep it from getting out of hand.

So, how do I raise non-consumers in the land of Hummers and McMansions?  My strategy so far has been to keep my kids outside as much as possible and to do interesting stuff with them.  But I suppose at some point we’ll have to have a talk.  I imagine it will go something like this: Darling boy, we’ll never be able to keep up with our neighbors.  We wouldn’t really want to anyway.  We do things differently.  We live on a farm.  You have a pond in your backyard and acres of fields and forest to explore. We have shelves of wonderful books. We’re getting chickens this spring. And if you’re lucky, you just might wind up a pony one day. Oh and I promise, promise, promise to take you to Paris before you’re twenty.

6 Responses to “Wii and Sympathy”

  1. Matt March 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Good post. I sorta’ tried to raise my kids the way you’re raising yours but didn’t try very hard. As a result, we’ve got a basement full of “crap they don’t need,” much of which you’d be welcome to.

    We even have a Wii you could probably have. My kids haven’t touched it since they got XBox, which I don’t like or understand, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting them either.

    • Janann March 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      Matt I know your kids are really active w/sports, outdoor stuff etc. I think balance is the key…We’ll probably do the wii thing eventually–just not quite ready. Don’t you think LoCo gives kids a skewed impression of what’s normal?

  2. Matt March 27, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Kids here are definitely growing up with a disconnect from most of America’s reality. Sad thing is, I’ve been here so long I don’t know much about it either.

  3. Stasha March 31, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    The way I see it either your child grows up the way you mold him and you enjoy his company or he is the way society dictates and you end up being a parent to a stranger. Sure there is a balance, but foundations you cannot compromise on. Now if you will excuse me, I need check if Amazon shipped the toy drill that I was asked to purchase after my son saw it at his bud’s house.

  4. Queen Mahin April 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Wow! I really feel like I could have written this… We are also moderate single income in rich county (NC) and we are TV-free. My Precious Kid is in middle school now and she is seeing her friends with iPads and laptops and um, that new really thin thing… what’s it called?
    I just don’t want that stuff in my house. It is really hard to teach kids about values and true joy/happiness when they are surrounded by materialism.

    • Janann April 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      thanks for reading! can’t wait to check out your blog. i think living in a super rich community is part of the problem, but materialism is pretty pervasive everywhere isn’t it? i guess the best we can do is try to set a good example (and some boundaries) and hope some of it sticks!

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