I apologize in advance to any of my dear friends that I may piss off in the writing of these words. Here is the thing: having kids has the potential to make adult human beings pretty damn nutty. It is very likely because of the sleep deprivation, complete physical exhaustion, and lack of peace and quiet necessary for self-reflection…well; I could go on and on. New parents get a little crazy. My husband and I were definitely there. As a matter of fact, it feels like we have spent the last few years walking ourselves out of the deep end of the crazy pool, and now I stand here looking back and asking myself what the in the hell I was thinking.
We went overboard, way overboard, and if you are a parent you know exactly what I am talking about here. If you are lost in what I am talking about, these are some terms that might help to ring a bell: birthdays, holidays, photographs, benchmarks, parties, events, vacations…again; I could go on and on. In the end, yes I have some adorable pictures, but that is it. I wasted a whole lot of time in all of those special moments. I was always crazy busy with attending to guests, keeping things clean, preparing food and taking pictures. I would probably have twice as many memories from all of those special times if I had just remembered to keep it fucking simple stupid. I think that my kids will enjoy the pictures when they grow up…but not any more than the pictures of the simple visits to the zoo.
So this is where I am now. I think that we simply overdid it for a good handful of years. If you believe that this may be the case for you as well: here are some reasons to put in a good effort at toning it down:
1. Children remember very little before the age of five. Yes, we do have the pictures, but what are we really doing with those? Are we trying to create some sort of documentation to prove to them that they had a happy childhood so that if they happen to grow up and hate us at least we don’t have that to feel guilty about? It is something to consider.
2. It is not appropriately representative of life. Parenting is the job of safely preparing our kids to be adults, so really, overdoing things all of the time when they are little really sets them up for disappointment when they grow up. Take birthdays for instance: we have all had those birthdays where no one even remembers, or there is a terrible turn out for the party, or something catastrophic happens…or nothing happens at all. Having a guest list of no less than fifty for every birthday with a well planned theme and two hundred balloons every year will not prepare a child for those disappointing eventualities.
3. There is so much waste. If we are truly honest with ourselves there is so much waste as a result of overdoing it. Do we waste gobs of time setting these things up that we could actually be spending with our friends and family? Do children really care that every one of their gifts are wrapped picture perfectly? Have you ever driven by a house where toddlers lived the week after Christmas and seen the piles and piles of cardboard and plastic packaging garbage? How much food do you usually end up throwing away after you throw a party for twenty plus people? Again, the waste is something to consider.
4. We rarely get to enjoy it. Like I mentioned before, moms and dads are usually so occupied with pulling these things off that we rarely get a chance to really enjoy spending time with the people we love. Looking back, I can imagine how much more memorable those moments could have been with just a little less hoopla.
5. It can skew a child’s perspective and interfere with their sense of gratefulness. When there are a bazillion packages at Christmastime, or fifty-five Easter baskets it becomes very difficult for a child to appreciate the blessing of each gift that they are receiving. It also makes it very difficult for them to recognize the fact that there are kids living in the very same town who may not receive any gifts that holiday.
6. All of the pre-requisite stuff. We have to face the reality: all of the decorations, and favors, and accessories are usually garbage products that are coming from bad places. I used to place orders with Oriental Trading several times a year, because the stuff they sold was cute and cheap. In reality, like most all things cheap and cute, it comes from sweat shops where the people are mistreated, poorly paid, and probably being poisoned.
7. The resources can usually be put to better use. When I think of how much money we have spent…ouch, wasted…I wonder what other things that money could have gone towards, and if they would be things that my children would have enjoyed far more than all of the toys that they quickly lost interest in, or events that they cannot even remember.
8. The menu. Now that we have had our end with refined sugar, my mind is completely blown when I think back to the pounds and pounds of sugar that I have served up to my poor friends and family, and my very own children over the years. It is absolutely disgusting and at this point my mind starts screaming warnings about gluttony at me when I dare to think about it. We used to allow our children to collect pounds and pounds of candy at Halloween…it was truly overdone.
9. The stress. As parents we put ourselves under so much unnecessary worry over all of these moments. I have friends that I have observed in absolute panic over coordinating everything so that an event, or a party, or even just a family photograph would go off just perfectly. Are we sure that the end result is really worth putting ourselves through all of that self-induced torture?
10. Are we missing the point? I think we do all of these things, in essence, because we want for our children to know how loved and supported they are. We adore seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the sounds of their delight. Unfortunately, I think we lose sight of just how easy that is to accomplish. Consider a bit of a downsize and you may notice that simplifying things makes them a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone involved.