I Give My Kids Experiences

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It turns out that physical things don’t buy as much happiness as experiences. It’s experiencing things together that binds us. This makes sense to me. My kids want an Xbox. We’ll let them earn money to buy it themselves, but we’re not buying it ourselves. We don’t have room in our living room for any more crap, and anyway there’s too much useless screen time in our house as it is.

Besides, it may pacify them in the moment they’re actually using it, but if psychology is right, and I think it is, a few years from now they’ll get much more emotional satisfaction out of remembering the cool things we did together.

Like staying at a cool historic hotel (this one, review to come later on Pit Stops For Kids), high on character…

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…with a bowling alley in the basement!

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Or like walking 1.5 miles each way to visit a 2300-foot-long rail-to-trail bridge.

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Or getting this close to a wind turbine…

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…on the way to the wedding of Mom and Dad’s friends:

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…who managed to do the impossible and have AMAZING food (Ecuadorian!) for a whole lot of people at quite possibly the coolest reception venue ever:

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Oh yes, and don’t forget the thoroughbred horse racing we squeezed in between Mass and wedding on Sunday.

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It was a pretty intense weekend. We filled just about every moment, because whenever we tried to settle down at the hotel, the littler boys turned on the “stir crazy” gene.

We have two more travel writing trips this summer. In the preparation stages I almost always go through an introvert’s panic attack feeling of being overwhelmed by the desire to stay home and keep things simple hesitation. But I always take a deep breath and push through, knowing that the experience is worth the effort.

 

News Flash: It’s All Junk

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How I feel living in a house with 4 kids who get party bags and swag wherever they go. Thank God for Flickr and the Storm Trooper guys. They never fail to have a good image for me. Photo by Jim Bauer, via Flickr.

I think I’m going to have to swear off parades.

For one thing, people are so rude. We get there 40 minutes before parade start time, which is over an hour before the parade reaches us, in order to make sure we have the kids in the front. Five minutes before the parade shows up, other, bigger kids come in and weave through the crowd and plop down in the front. They stand up, pushing the rope forward and crowding the parade to make sure they can see everything, which means my kids cannot, and get as much candy as possible, which means my kids get almost none, because they’re, yanno, polite. What a concept. And when my husband says something to the offenders–very politely, I might add–they go running to their parents, who light into my husband for being so presumptuous as to think that their children should have any consideration for anyone other than themselves.

And then there’s the sheer volume of trash left on the streets afterward. What is the matter with people? I made my kids go up and down the street picking up candy wrappers after the parade, in the hopes that people would see kids cleaning up their mess and feel shamed into better behavior in the future. A slim hope, but worth a try.

Plus, the parades are just not that interesting anymore. Why bother putting time and energy into a float that’s interesting to look at when you can stick a sign on the side of a truck and play really, really loud music? And surely everyone is breathless from waiting to be handed yet another plastic cup with your business name on the side. Better yet, a three-inch foam football! Hurrah! I just love having more useless junk around my house, destined to strain the earth’s resources both in its unnecessary production and at the inevitable “File 13” end. Because God forbid you at least make your useless junk recyclable!

Oh, look! I’m so glad this business decided to stick an air cannon in the back of their undecorated truck and shoot T shirts instead. Because no one in America has enough t shirts in their drawers, and we are all dying to be walking advertisements for car dealerships and beer distributors.

Not.

While we’re on the t shirt topic, what is it with the compulsion to hand out a t shirt for every event on the planet? T shirts for charity runs. T shirts for school read-a-thons and summer camps and Bible school. T shirts for summer school. T shirts for every home game. T shirts for freebies at the ballpark.

Who wears these things? Surely I’m not the only person whose house is overflowing with t shirts that never, ever get worn because the kids have their favorite “Creepers gonna creep” t shirt that they wear every single day. But that must be the case even for the people who fly straight to the T shirt makers and order t shirts for the next occasion. Why?

And then there are those stupid party bags that people hand out at birthday parties and school Halloween parties. The bags filled with absolute, complete junk like “pinball” machines and “mazes” that no human being can manipulate successfully, let alone a child. Plus, they break in about one second anyway. Key chains meant to last for one day before they snap. Plastic clappers. Paddleball toys that break with one good tug on the bouncy ball.

Why?

Why, why, why?

Are we really this addicted to Stuff, that we feel this compulsion to have gimme gimmes at every possible opportunity? Why do we buy into this, people? It’s time to stand up and do something about it. Say no to the t shirts, no to the junk bags, no to the useless swag. It’s time we do our celebrating with an eye to the parts of the world where the money spent on this crap (pardon my French), which is destined only for the landfill, could feed people for a week. Maybe then our celebrations could actually do some good in the world, instead of feeding our own vices.