Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Daughter is Not a Commercial, or, A Battle Lost

Lucy and I went to the local big box store to buy some last minute supplies for Kindergarten (including a new backpack, since Julia (aka Hulk-toddler) managed to rip Lucy's brand-new one right down the side). We got everything else we needed and headed back to the rack of backpacks and lunch boxes. As we approached, I immediately began thinking, "This was a BAD idea - I should have done this on my own..."
You see, from the moment I became a parent, I've been pretty picky about the media that I allow into the house. My husband and I don't watch TV while the girls are awake, they don't spend much time (if any!) on the iPad or computer, and I'm pretty choosy about the shows I let them watch on Netflix. We don't do princesses or battery-operated toys, and I do my best to encourage cars and spaceships in addition to dolls and play kitchens. I don't let the girls wear clothes with cartoon characters on them (PJ's are an exception, since no one sees them but us) - I hate the idea of my girls being free, mobile advertising for Disney and Nickelodeon. I just think that part of my job as a mother is to act as gatekeeper - the amount of aggressive marketing directed toward kids (especially girls) is staggering, and I just want to stem the tide, if I can. I'm not anti-media, but I want my girls to be thoughtful consumers, once they're old enough to be making those decisions - at age five, three and two, I don't think that day had come just yet. Now, I'm not going to lie, this is not a perfect system. My girls do watch Disney movies occasionally, and I let Lucy watch Frozen twice. Meh. I'm actually rather partial to the movie Tangled, as much as I'm ashamed to admit it. ;-)
So, back to the story - as we walked up to this sea of school time goodies, I saw nothing but cartoon characters. As we started looking through the various offerings, I found a really great alternative - it had ice cream cones all over it, lots of pink scribbles, and (the best part) lit up when you tapped it! Totally cool, right?? Nope, because my five-year-old had fixated on a Frozen-themed pink and purple confection of a backpack. I did my best to talk her out of it, but all my big ideas just wouldn't come out of my mouth when I wanted them to. Somehow we ended up taking that monstrosity home, and Anna and Elsa sat there smirking at me from my kitchen counter that evening. Ha ha ha, they said. We've won, and it's all downhill from here...
Here's the thing: in some ways, things have gone downhill in the past few days since this backpack came into our house. Lucy has become obsessed with watching Frozen again, and whenever it comes up, she throws a tantrum when I say no. It started before we even left the store, in fact. Once she got the backpack she wanted, she started asking for everything! It was ridiculous! I kept reminding her of all the toys she has at home (despite our recent effort to clean out, it seems like they multiply overnight), but she just whined and complained about wanting that toy/shirt/book, whatever it was. It was disappointing, and looking back, I should have trusted my gut, put all of our school supplies back (including the backpack) and walked out of the store. 
I spend much of my prayer time asking the Lord for parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to our "stuff". I want to teach my kids how to be grateful - grateful for what we have, but more importantly, grateful for what we don't have. The more toys, the more clean-up you have to do. The bigger the house, the more you have to clean. The more clothes you have, the more laundry you have to do. The more money you have, the more likely you're going to be a slave to it. Life is not about stuff acquisition!
Lucy's a really great kid, and there are times when she blows me away with her generosity. She's smart, articulate, social, and very responsible. And I know, maybe I'm reading too much into a backpack, but as we make this transition into school, I want to be very conscious of the things she's taking in - it's a (small) part of the reason that we chose to homeschool. And the thing is, it's not even that I'm afraid of her becoming obsessed with something. Every kid is obsessed with something at one time or another. I was no exception, since I spend most of my childhood enamored with poisonous spiders. ;-) But if she's going to be obsessed with something, let it be ladybugs, or horses, or rocks, or building with tinkertoys, or anything besides a movie. I guess it could be worse...she could have chosen the Monster High backpack. :-p

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