Monday, August 6, 2012

Saying "Yes"

I went to book club this morning.

One of the things I love about this particular book club are its members: there's a wide range of ages, and I find that makes for some very interesting discussion, no matter what book we're reading.

Last month's book- the one we discussed this morning- was The Soldier's Wife, by Margaret Leroy.  I'll get around to posting a review on the "Books" page one of these days, but that's not what I intend to talk about today.  No, today we're going to be talking about a very specific topic that came up at this morning's meeting.

The book is set on the island of Guernsey, part of the UK, during the Nazi occupation of World War II.  A major factor in the setting of the story is the fact that the inhabitants of the island had to go without so many things, being cut off from the mainland.  Necessities (including things like food and fuel to heat homes), especially toward the end of the war, were scarce, not to mention any extra, more frivolous items.

Several of the women in our club remember WWII.  They were children who's fathers and brothers and friends were gone for years, fighting with the Allies.  As such, they have a different perspective from those of us who are younger, who have perhaps been affected by war, but often on a much more peripheral basis than those who lived through the second World War.

One of the many things we have never experienced is rationing.  Most of my generation don't know what it means to save every scrap of tinfoil and each piece of string or rubber or glass to either reuse or turn in to contribute to the war effort.  We just don't know what that's like.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that in and of itself.  But I certainly had to agree with one older lady who went on a bit of a mini-rant about how Christmas used to be special, but that for today's children, who get toys and extra items on a regular basis, Christmas just isn't the same.

Maybe I should have been offended.  I am, after all, a parent of this spoiled generation of children of which she's speaking.  Instead, I was nodding my head, wishing everyone thought like her.

You see, I say, "No," to our children all the time.  Our kiddos didn't even realize you could buy those little items in the check-out line at Wal-Mart until about a year ago.  We just don't buy things like that for our kids.  No toys, no clothes, no candy, no extras.  Because you only have to say "yes" once for your kids to completely lose their minds and go rogue on you.  For us, it's just easier for "No" to be the status quo.  They rarely even ask (because they know the answer will always be, "Not today," my softened up, nicer version of "No"), and when they do, it's like a joke.  No fits, no tantrums, no nothing.

Now, please don't imagine our kiddos go around wearing burlap sacks and pretending that nice stick they found outside is a dolly.  Thanks to some generous grandparents, they have all kinds of fun playthings, and thanks to lots and lots of time spent at garage sales, they have nice clothes.  They even get new books on a regular basis (provided I can find them for under $0.50 at those same sales).

I also don't want you to think I'm judging you if you occasionally buy toys for your kids.  (Unless you're buying them something every time you leave the house.  Then, YES, I am judging you.)  They're your kids, it's your money.  Buy whatever you want.

But please remember that, the next time you're at the store and the little darlings are just begging for that cheap piece of plastic crap, it's actually most likely in your children's best interest for you to not buy that thing for them.

And for you other few parents who are more like me and maybe a little too far into the "I refuse to buy my children anything unless it's practical or second-hand," please remember that because we're saying "No" to our children so much, we need to find areas where our response can be "Yes."

Yes, I will play seven games of dominoes with you.

Yes, I will haul out your Easy Bake Oven and bake a ridiculously tiny cake with you.

Yes, I will play that mind-numbingly boring game with you.  AGAIN.

Yes, yes, yes, I will read that book to you.  AGAIN.

Because it is my firm belief that what our children really need from us is not more stuff, but us.  They need our time, they need our attention, they need their parents.


  1. I certainly agree with you, and it's something that I really struggle with. Emma is very used to the word "no", and rarely asks for things while we're out shopping. She's pretty good at saving up her allowance for things, and sometimes just the act of having to delay the gratification can make some cheap plastic stuff seem not worth the price.

    It's harder as they get older, though, and are in a circle of friends who have much less in the way of limits. I'm good at saying no to the big things --yes, lots of your friends have phones (in 5th grade) but you will not. But the smaller things, like the cool pencil tops that everyone else has --I'm not so good at saying no to those things.

    What I really, really, really! wish is that grocery stores hadn't become "let's sell everything" stores. There are a million non-food items at kids eye-level, and that just makes it harder! Cute stuffed animals at the grocery store? Why?!

    1. 5th graders with phones? Is that seriously the norm now? I have a feeling I'm in a for a rude awakening as our children get older and become more aware of the things their peers have. I'd much rather say yes to some pencil tops (it's still semi-practical, right? Unless she's like me and can't force herself to use pretty things) than a cell phone.

  2. sorry about the easy bake oven.

    1. Actually, the easy bake oven has been okay because you got her that cookbook along with it. It takes us maybe ten minutes to make a cake that involves ingredients like 2 tsps sugar and 1 Tbsp butter. I also started storing the oven in a more accessible location, which makes the whole thing a lot easier to get in and out quickly. And you know Adelaide loves it!

  3. 1) Jealous of the book club. I have a phone number to join one but I'm afraid a) of the book they'll choose in case I don't want to read it and b) of yet another commitment for my crazy calendar so I keep procrastinating on making the call. Yet I still would love to meet fellow book lovers in my new town and sit down and talk books face-to-face. . .

    2) I'm with you in regards to my kids having much more than they need while still possessing significantly less than many kids. They know better than to ask, too--well, except for Easton. He asks, but doesn't seem to really expect a yes.

    3) Love the way you contrasted stuff with time--well done (and convicting!)

    1. I've found that good book clubs are really hard to find. There just aren't that many dedicated readers out there, and we're all so pressed for time anymore.

  4. I just love reading your blog Kristy.

    I can't wait to rejoin book club next month! I am sad that I missed this book. WWII has been a big "read" for me this year.

    Carter seems to ask for a lot more stuff than Caleb ever did. But, he asks for it as "Can I have that for my birthday?" So, at least he knows when he is "allowed" to get stuff. :0)

    1. That's so funny; Adelaide does the same thing. She adds to her Christmas list all year long, even though she knows we'll only get her maybe two gifts. I think she's holding out for her grandparents.

      And I'm glad to hear you'll be at book club next month- I've missed you!


Studies show that that people who leave comments are kind, intelligent, generous, creative, and have really nice hair.