Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Love What I (Don't) Have

This week is spring break for my kids. I have only one thing to say:

Any thought I ever entertained about "yeah, maybe I could homeschool... if it's what's best for the kids..." is completely out the window. If anything, it is like a cruel taunt to remind me that in a few short months I will not only have the kids at home alone with me, but it will be for a hell of a lot longer than a measly week.

SO. Charlie Brown and Linus just happen to have some very best friends from school who are the same ages as them and are also brothers. On Sunday, I arranged a playdate for my boys to go over to those boys' house. BUT our boys happen to be grounded from computer until Easter, and from TV until Wednesday. Long stories, not very flattering, to save some face I will not share the details. Anyway. I told the mom, "Listen, here's the deal: They are grounded from computer and TV. So, if our kids come over they won't be able to play with those things. Do you still want to have them over and then they can do other things? Or would you prefer we reschedule until our kids are ungrounded?" Her answer: "Uh... I'll have to ask the boys. I don't know... we're not really 'toy' people. We do lots of outdoor stuff but don't have too many toys."

My first reaction: What does that mean, "not 'toy' people"? Do they not have toys? Like, Legos and Nerf guns and board games? And, if they are into outdoor stuff, wouldn't it be easy to get away from the computer/tv/DS/Wii? And, OH MY WORD what have we, as a modern society, come to that we actually need to pause to consider whether or not we can have fun with children for 2.5 hours without TV or computers?

Let me back up and say, that the last time I went over to their house to pick up the boys, one was on a laptop while one of their boys was on another laptop and they were playing some game together, while my other son was on a game boy and their other son was on a DS. They hardly even noticed me enter the room. I had to threaten them within an inch of their lives to get them to leave. It was a little disturbing watching that scene play back in my head.

But, if nothing else, it made me really glad that we don't have all that stuff. I am in NO way telling people that they shouldn't have a Wii, or a Playstation, or 9257 cable channels, or an iPhone, or a Palm Pilot or any of that fun techie stuff. After all, we have our own share of high-tech items in the Texan Household. But seeing this family and the obvious affect it had on the kids, made me realize how easy it is to lose sight of the hold these things can have over us.

When we moved here last year, I was SO excited to get high-speed internet. It might have been the VERY first priority I had when moving into the house. I believe I had the DSL hooked up before I unpacked the dishes. Before this, we just had dial-up. It is a recent-enough memory to serve as a warning to me to NEVER live somewhere ever again where high-speed internet isn't available. So, the idea of putting the internet on a phone? I'm all "What fer?" I am so thrilled to just HAVE high-speed internet that I don't push my luck by getting it on my phone. Plus, to afford a phone that has internet capability? Well, let's just say, it doesn't exactly fit into the Texan Financial Plan for '09.

I certainly want for better things. It would be unnatural to never covet your neighbors' possessions. But, the thing I crave most of all, is a sense of satisfaction. I don't really want things as much as I want to NOT want things. Does that make sense? The balance between wanting things and needing things and acquiring things is a constant struggle with me, but one I hope I am winning more than losing. I am (usually) happy with all of our second-hand furniture. I am (sometimes) satisfied with our two vehicles. And, as I'm finding out by my recent quest to save up enough money to buy a new camera, it feels really great to work towards a goal and earn it, rather than getting something on a selfish whim, then trying to muster up the enjoyment for it afterward. I've done that in the past and I've learned the hard way that the stuff I just HAD to have usually ends up in a garage sale pile.

I think the whole concept of delayed gratification is lost. Does anyone even practice it anymore? And if they do, don't their friends look at them like, "What's wrong with you? Just charge it. Get it now. If you want it, you should treat yourself!"

Ugh. That's a whole 'nother post waiting to happen.

So, am I the only one who ever asks herself, "How in the HELL did I ever survive before we had cell phones? How did I function without email? How did we know what to do with ourselves when we only had one car for a family of 3 people?"

Now, don't freak out. I'm not about to sell my minivan or live off what we grow in the garden or turn Amish. I just keep wondering... when will we cross the threshhold of "more technology than is really good for us" ? Or have we already crossed it?


stephanie (bad mom) said...

While I'm supremely saddened by the other mom's hesitant "not toy people" attitude, it did give you the chance to reaffirm where you are - which is the smart place to be, frankly.

We have a fair amount of electronica but it is secondary to playing outside or doing something old school like Legos or coloring or board games.

Really wish we lived next door...

mommy nurse said...

WOW, you said it! People look at me like I have grass growing on my head when I tell them we don't have cable! Yesterday after school and homework the kids RAN outside to play. At one point my youngest was trying to figure out how to sled down the hill on the grass! It was fun to watch, grass sledding! Who needs toys, just an imagination and no parents to tell them you can't do that! I wish I lived next door too!!

E said...

I get it. We have all the stuff, but I am craving a little sustainability. I want a garden and a cow. I want to be able to feed myself. I want make cheese and butter and get our eggs out of the chicken house and our milk from the cow.
In the last depression everyone had a victory garden. I remember my Gram talking about their cow and they lived in a well settled town too. But people could feed themselves. Now we can barely unplug let alone make stuff.
I think the financial crisis has a lot of us reevaluating and considering all the stuff we think we can't live without.
Wanna bring the kids over and help me figure out how to milk a cow????

Chris said...

I get that "just treat yourself, you deserve it" comment sometimes. I'm one of those people who doesn't have a credit card. Not because I CAN'T have one, but because I don't WANT it. I know what sort of troubles it can cause.

That's one reason I was impressed with your savings plan for your camera. I love that you didn't just run out and buy it, charge it and pay 10 times what it was worth.

Jennifer said...

Being a person who is guilty of all of that stuff, I think we've already crossed it. I'm connected pretty much 24/7. A friend of mine and I were just joking that we have email, facebook and our instant messenger up all day (including at home until I go to bed). So now it isn't possible just for my family to get me anywhere at anytime, all of my friends can do the same. And the worst of it is that I can't really blame anyone else. I've done this to myself. I keep telling myself that I'll break the habit, but I just don't see it happening any time soon.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

not 'toy' people, WTH? I have never heard that--it's like we aren't 'active' people. Playdates at our house rules include no TV, no computer (OK some garage band and iMovie to make music/movies on the Mac but only if it's a crappy day) and this week is awesome. Why would she want her kids to be in front of TV or computer?
Your thoughts I feel are how many of us feel, but our media/society is teaching something totally different. You have no idea how many just out school clients my husband has that want a media room in their first home. There is a major sense of entitlement--positive side of recession, that feeling will disappear.
Oh and I am a person who has said 'how did I function before my iPhone?' and I mean it ;)

Different subject--how did you get away with just $25 for the blogger dinner?!

Natalie said...

oh good golly. did your boys get to go over and play at that house without the tv and computer???

i can't believe that the parents wanted to "ask" their children first!?!?!? seriously, i hope that my house never gets to the point that we can't just PLAY!

and i rarely allow 'tech' gadgets when friends are over. i make them play outside or up in her room...together...using their *gasp* imaginations!