Thursday, February 5, 2015

Simple Times

We were at a kid's museum when I spotted a book titled, Simplicity Parenting sitting on the shelf. I picked it up and glanced it over while my kid climbed aboard a pirate ship to take the wheel.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept. The whole less-is-more approach in a day and age when everything is sold in bulk. I leafed through it for as long as my attention span would allow, nodding in agreement with the simplistic approach. Most kids have too many options. It's okay to be bored rather than rushing from one thing to the next. Boredom inspires creativity.

It made so much sense. 

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated my son’s second birthday. It was a Friday night and it turned out to be a pretty low key affair. My wife’s parents were staying with us and her best friend dropped by with her family. No clowns, no blowout party, just a couple of hours of fun. At two, it’s not like he's sweating the goods, he just wants you to chase him down the hallway. So that's pretty much what we did.

And it was great.

My wife and I have been having the whole how much is too much? discussion lately in our house. It's so easy to get caught up. He'll want something and and then we want him to be happy. Grandparents want to buy stuff. But a few days later there are mounds of forgotten toys laying around the house. And all he wants is an emtpy box to play in.

I feel like many of us try to give our kids all the things that we never had growing up. But in reality, that never-having was what inspired us do the fun stuff: Exploring the woods, building forts, watching ants, and when desperate....reading books. I agree with the philosophy that if we constantly give them everything we create a sense of entitlement.

Making our kids feel like the center of the universe is not necessarily a great thing. I mean, remember wishing for that one toy? Hoping and dreaming and counting the seconds until Christmas? How does that work for a kid with everything?

And it ‘s not necessarily about stuff but about time. When I do think back on kidhood, it’s not my toys or shoes or flashy stuff that I had that comes to mind, it’s the moments. I’d rather spend my time just hanging out with my kid.

But even still, from time to time I catch myself not having what I'd call a trophy-winning parenting moment. My son is asking me a question and I just grunt and mumble a lazy uh-huh like a drone.

And it feels awful.

I don’t want to be a drone. I don’t want my kid to be a drone. 

I love how we’ll watch one episode of Thomas the Train and then he’ll talk about it for two days. I love how he reads along with a book because he’s memorized the words. I love how his eyes move around as he tries to work a piece to a puzzle. I love noticing the small, irreplaceable not-for-purchase moments that make parenting so special. And most of it is so simple.

I don’t need his picture to be liked because I love it. I don’t need apps, games, screens, toys, or movies to see him smile. I just need time. And there is plenty of time, it's up to me to use it wisely.

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