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Teaching my kids to be minimalists, by…indulging them.

Subtitle: A Tale of Two Spouses

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and by that I mean that I grew up surrounded by stuff. Mountains and mountains of too much stuff. My parents’ philosophy was that in their house, if they had one of every possible thing, it was about six things too few, per thing. This is how I ended up with 8 siblings.

My husband, though, grew up poor, and I don’t mean poor like “I didn’t get that bike I wanted for Christmas” or “I had to work my way through college,” but like “my grandfathers both committed suicide after the fall of the Soviet Union because their life savings had been wiped out,” “I spent a lot of energy in early adulthood trying to figure out how to protect my sister from turning to prostitution to support the family,” and “My parents divorced when I was 10 but there were no resources for either to move out so two divorced parents and two kids lived in a studio apartment for an additional 8 years.”

When my husband came to America, he was super materialistic. He had so few possessions when he grew up that they became a thing that he worshipped. In his life, if you got a t-shirt, you never let it touch the ground, you never let it get stained. It was just too precious. Once, not long after we bought a Honda Odyssey, he backed into it with our other car, causing a dent that is smaller than a nickel. It ate at him. It eats at him still. He was prepared to spend hundreds of dollars to fix it, because You Take Care of Stuff (I have discouraged him from doing this, and since it’s more or less my soccer-mom-van, I am winning).

I, on the other hand, don’t give two shits about stuff. I kind of liked it when the Odyssey got a ding, because that meant I didn’t have to be so careful when I was driving it anymore. I threw out 80% of my wardrobe last year and have never been happier about the way I dress. My favorite holiday is Throwing Stuff Away Day.

And maybe the plural of anecdotes is not data, but children who are hungry at birth have a hard time regulating their food later. It does not make sense to me that depriving children of the things they most desire teaches them to desire those things less.

I have heard of people going for FI that minimize everything in their lives, simplify everything, and I aspire to that. But I also don’t impose it on my kids. They got an obscene amount of presents for Christmas (much of it clothing and practical stuff, because regardless, I’m a cheap asshole, but still). Their toys (most second-hand or hand-me-downs because I’m a cheap asshole) are overflowing into the living room (uh, we aren’t rich enough to have a separate playroom, so their toys are the living room), and I swear to fucking God if I step on another LOL Surprise Doll I will burn the whole house down. I’m sure they think they are the opposite of spoiled because duh they are kids, and I think they get fewer gifts and toys than some of their friends (but not all). Still. Deprivation is not a thing that happens in our house, nor is forced, er, encouraged minimalism.

I love the idea of teaching my kids to be minimalists. I think the way to do that is actually the opposite of what a lot of people preach – I think you don’t teach kids to care less about consumerism by abolishing it. I think you teach kids about turning away from consumerism by showing them that they can have those things, but those things, in the end, are just things; they aren’t what makes you happy.

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