Last night, I spent the night at my parents’ house with my 9 month old son. Grammie and Grandpa take care of him during the day quite frequently, but my husband usually is the one to go and get him before he picks me up at the end of my work day. I hadn’t been to their house in a while. The first thing I notice is the vast array of toys strewn about in their rather sizable living room, in the room where Jameson naps, and in the kitchen. I flash to our house, and the “toys” (mostly household items like spoons and lids from pots and pans) he has there. Oof. I even make some snarky comment like, “Goodness. I hope he has enough to do here,” which really means, “why does he have three times as many toys at Grammie’s house than he does at his own house?”
During my teaching days, I often shook my head in dismay at all my students who drove nicer cars than I did, who had nicer clothes and gadgets and everything than I had when I was growing up. I vowed I would not be that parent. I read the book Confessions of a Slacker Mom (My personal bible – highly recommended) when Jameson was only a month old, and my husband read it soon after, both of us fully affirming the philosophy that our son would not have millions of toys, rather, he would learn to be creative in other ways! We made do, and so would he!
Now, I sit looking at my parents’ living room with toys and musical devices everywhere, and I am suddenly feeling that guilt that must go through the minds of parents everywhere: I don’t buy my son toys. I’m a terrible parent.
Then, I come to work and begin to evaluate coursework, and there is a disproportional number of submissions from the course, What Kids Need: Building Self-Discipline which is all about parents and teachers learning the value of “No,” and how understanding this concepts builds stronger character in kids. Delayed gratification and all that stuff. I’m now wondering if I’m not such a bad parent after all.
It’s tough to see where to draw the lines, but I am sticking to my guns on this one. Toys are not where its at…neither is TV or movies or anything Elmo (we have a no-Elmo rule at our house…for now). It’s about values, and understanding how to be counter-cultural. It’s about the fact that Grammies and Grandpas sometimes have a lot of toys, and sometimes its ok to spoil the boy with that experience. It’s about showing kids that entertainment can be found in simplicity. That my son is exposed to situations where he recognizes how fortunate he really is, and that more toys does not necessarily mean a better situation. It’s ok for parents to say “no,” and for them to hold fast and strong to their values. My kid will (hopefully) build character and tenacity by not being handed everything.
The teacher in me is grateful that I listened to the universe this time. My son can enjoy time wherever he is, and I don’t need to have more toys than Grammie. The parent in me wishes I could have avoided that twinge of guilt, but I’ll live. You’re never too old to build character, right?