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.