Friday, January 15, 2010

What Really Matters ...


Since about the new year, we have noticed that Jackson is talking a lot about stuff. Mostly stuff he doesn't have. Despite receiving gift from parents, Santa, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends at Christmas, he is talking about the stuff he didn't receive. Mostly an iTouch, a DSi and more recently a SIM card for his non-phone.

This has been driving me crazy.

It's one of the reasons we held back on the electronics. He only got a DS 6 months ago when he have saved enough allowance to buy it. We just got a Wii at Christmas and were the last family in town to do so (or so it felt). Our approach has been to defer where possible, the pricey electronics.

Now I very much doubt that it helped with Jackson's obsession with stuff that, in a remarkable display of hypocrisy, Husband and I splurged before Christmas and acquired a 46 inch Plasma TV. We had a long list of justifications for this, one being the OLYMPICS are in our hometown in 4 weeks and we are Olympics' freaks when it's in Greece or China, so you can imagine how we are having it in our own backyard.

We have sort of always prided ourselves that if some burglar broke into our house they would be sorely disappointed as all our electronics are old and we don't have any fancy watches or diamond earrings. But now we actually have something worth stealing.

But back to the J Boy. We have been treated to a barrage of remarks about his desiring more stuff. He talked about saving up for things, asking Santa for them next Christmas, hoping the Easter Bunny will bring them, or just making general remarks about how "EVERY KID IN MY CLASS HAS A DSi AND AN iPOD TOUCH".

So I have been pointing out to Jackson that some kids don't own any toys, let alone electronic games. And many more don't know where their next meal is coming from. It seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Last weekend, I thought that we should look for something to do as a family that will remind us all how lucky we are. Perhaps volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen. We certainly participate in food drives at church and school that help those in need. At Christmas the kids contributed to a goat we bought for a family in the third world. But I think the kids (and the grownups) would benefit from SEEING that people are in need and DOING something about it.

When the earth quake ravaged Haiti this week, I myself was sobered by how very much we have. Such an impoverished nation struck another blow by mother nature.

So I made Jackson watch the CNN coverage with me.

"See those kids? They are hurt and there are not enough doctors and nurses to help them."

It seemed to have an effect. "Wow, this is a big story Mommy. Look at those houses, they fell down. Where will all the people live?"

(Of course, CNN wall-to-wall-around-the-clock coverage had the same effect on him as it does on adults:

"Mommy, why do they keep repeating themselves? They are showing the same pictures and saying the same things. They are beating a dead horse.")

But would the images he saw permeate his grey matter for any lasting effect?

On Thursday, I come home from work and Jackson wanted a new computer game. He wanted to buy it with his own allowance, but it's the obsession with stuff that had me again unnerved. He asked me about 100 times in the first 30 minutes I was in the door whether I had talked to Daddy about this.

Husband and I attempted to have a discussion. We have things to consider like:

1. It was rated "Teen", which generally is not allowed. But this game is very similar to an old Star Trek game of Husband that the boy plays and it also rated "Teen".

2. We believe the point of allowance is to allow the kids to spend their money and even make mistakes.

3. Last week he was obsessed with another piece of software and now this. Should we teach him about
delayed gratification and wait some number of days to see if he still wanted it?

4. On Tuesday he had a VERY disrespectful night. I, then known as "piece of crud", was still smarting from the events of that night. Although we disbursed a boatload of consequences (including a fine for the piece-of-crud remark) we didn't bar him from spending his own money.

So as Husband went upstairs to take a long phone call, Jackson continued his pester-ment of me, asking if we had made a decision. It's started to feel like it's not about letting him spend $20 on this game. It's that he is again so obsessed with STUFF.

So I said, "Jackson, do you know what is really important??"

He paused before giving his answer.

"Homework."

Sydney added "And God."

"Yeah" Jackson clarified "Homework and God."

Where did he learn to suck up like that?

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