Each year, during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I envision my family sitting around a big table feasting on turkey and pie as we take turns giving thanks. To my dismay, however, that vision has never been fully realized. None of the Thanksgiving feasts I’ve been part of—even the ones I’ve hosted—have featured a slow, deliberate, public giving of thanks.
In fact, as my husband and I made our rounds with our kids visiting family and friends this year, I noticed that many of the conversations ignored thankfulness and, instead, focused on greed.
I want, I want, I want
At our first stop, the children recited—with the skill of expert orators—long Christmas wish lists. When my sister expressed amazement at the length and detail of the lists, my eight-year-old nephew chimed in with the proclamation that his wish list is only six items long. The irony—his list is made up entirely of big ticket items, including an iPad and iPhone—was lost on him.
High hopes seemed to be at the core of everyone’s list. At our second stop, a family friend talked about her granddaughter’s tall holiday order. “I NEED a whole new wardrobe, Grandma,” she had said.
All the demands remind me of my own Sweet G, who, just a few days ago, climbed into my lap as I was browsing Zulily, our favorite online store. “I want that! And that! And that!” he insisted as his eyes glazed over. He didn’t even know what most of the items were. What two-year-old needs a pink faux leather cosmetics bag?
Who’s to blame?
Clearly, my son, like the vast majority of his peers, has been conditioned to state his needs and to expect to have them met. But he’s certainly not to blame and neither are his peers or their parents.
Consumerism—and the sly advertisements agencies that drive it—is at fault. Clever packaging and flashy commercials tell children that they can’t live without dolls that pee and poop, and machines that project shooting stars onto their ceilings.
At this point, I’m thankful that my own children expect very little. Sweet G is too young to make too many demands, and Baby T doesn’t even know what a gift is. But, because the hub and I know things will be different next year, we’ve made a plan to preserve our boys’ senses necessity and thankfulness.
Because this is a new battle for us, we’ve got a plan rather than a program for curbing the unfortunate effects of consumerism. Here it is.
- We will teach our children the history of and meaning behind every holiday.
- We will teach our children to see the value in spending time with family.
- We will teach our children to appreciate giving gifts as well as receiving them.
- We will limit exposure to commercials by watching television shows on Netflix.
- We will leave our children at home while we shop, expect on special occasions, when will give them their wallets and own money and guide their personal purchases as well as gifts for family and friends.
- We will ask our family to contribute to education funds that have been set up in their names instead of buying excessive amounts of toys and clothes.
- We will ask our boys to donate toys and clothes that they no longer use.
At this point, we can only hope our first spending-time-with-family-is-more-important-than-receiving-gifts speech took root. After all, it was delivered to a two-year-old and ten-month-old in a warm car after a heavy meal. What more is there to be thankful for?
If you have ideas for how to switch the holiday spirit away from greed and selfishness and back toward thankfulness and togetherness, please share.