Parenting & the ephemerality of possession

I struggle mightily with materialism. On one hand, I am an inveterate early-adopter gadget-hound. I want the latest, greatest, shiniest toy. On the other hand, I hate buying things. At some level I don’t even particularly like owning things. I’m all over eBooks for the same reason I very quickly embraced digital music (once I figured out I didn’t have to rip at 128k) – it reduces physical clutter, but allows me to still partake in a passion – discovering new music, new books.

aside: I’m not yet down with physical media-less video simply because the quality of a Blu-ray disc generally FAR exceeds anything I get online – sound, video, extra features. Give me all that in a digital-only download & I’ll switch in a heartbeat. Until then, I’ll keep renting & buying the physical media.

And so of course imparting this sort of internal struggle to Liam is important to me. I want him to cherish his possessions, recognize the value of them and derive happiness from receiving and interacting with them. At the same time, I don’t want to raise a hopeless materialist who only derives happiness from buying new things, and always wants new things. And I want him to understand how liberating and joyful it can be to get rid of possessions. I know some of this is just being a child, but a small part of me gets really unhappy that Liam looks longingly at the dollar toy-in-an-egg machines, that he’ll choose a kinder egg over other candy because it comes with a toy every time. And that if and when we get these toys, he’ll play with them for a little while – sometimes an hour, sometimes a day, and then they’re tossed in a toy-bucket never to be played with again. I feel very much to blame because we have been willing to buy him things if he asks for them.

aside #2: Liam has this thing which drives both Leah and I nuts where he’s incredibly passive about things and won’t come out and ask for them. He’ll say things like “I was thinking about a kinder egg” when what he means is “I would like a kinder egg”. It drives me up the wall. I’ve now taken to being flippant (if I’m in a good mood) or sarcastic (if not so much) in response to this. Liam doesn’t deal very well with rejection, it must be said, so I suspect that this is his defense mechanism – he’s not as disappointed if what he’s thinking about doesn’t happen compared to if what he’s asking for doesn’t happen.

So we’re working on the idea that a)we don’t buy everything we want just because we want it (about which I do admit to feeling quite hypocritical) b)that we cherish and value the things we have and take care of our possessions c)it’s a good thing to share with our friends and not be too possessive. So these are somewhat contradictory ideas that really, for the most part, Liam seems to be getting. I think. I’m not sure. He certainly gets the idea of delayed gratification, which is great. But I admit that we’re struggling with this and I do worry that I’m raising a materialist who always wants more stuff, regardless of if he actually wants the item, or just wants to satisfy the act of wanting….

Bleh. This post kind of went off in a different direction than I’d intended. Oh well.