Monday, August 11, 2008

Voluntary Simplicity: Memories Not Stuff

Last week, I wrote about downshifting - simplifying life so you not only live more environmentally friendly but also so you have the time to do the things you want to do. I also shared that even though I felt I was living more simply, somehow I hadn't quite made time for some of the most important thing - spending more time with my family and friends.

To that end, I chose not to work at all this weekend. I checked my e-mail a few times, but I didn't write or work at writing at all. No pre-posted blogs, no how to green... articles, no scouring the online ads for writing jobs.

Friday night I took the boys to the local park to see a free production of The Frog Prince and I met a friend and her kids there. After the play we went to the playground and the kids swung and climbed and threw rocks in the creek until dark.

Saturday, I went to the farmer's market in the morning, we got the boys to karate and art lessons, and then my husband and I spent the day working on critter proofing the garden (to only minimal success - another post). That night we cooked a (mostly) local meal and then we took the time to look at what free movies were playing on tv instead of running to the video store. Ended up watching the Val Kilmer Batman movie. Wow, was he a stiff Batman/Bruce Wayne. But the boys were thrilled they got to watch one of the real Batman movies.

Sunday, we went to church in the morning and then we drove to Atlantic City to meet friends who had been there for the weekend. We took the boys on the famous Steel Pier and walked the boards and went to dinner. Then we had to walk blocks and blocks in the pouring rain, lightning and thunder back to the car. It was a little scary, but kind of fun, too.

When we were on the Steel Pier, the boys inevitably started to ask to play the games of chance to win "stuff." I made my declaration, "All we're taking home today is good memories of being with our friends. We're not taking home any stuff."

Five minutes later, "Mom, please..."

I repeated my declaration, calmly.

After about five or six Mom, pleases, this little gem spit out between my gritted teeth,
I told you, all we're taking home today is memories, not stuff. So you can either choose to take home memories of having a good time with your friends or you can choose take home memories of mommy going ballistic on you on the boardwalk because you won't stop hounding her. It's up to you.
So here's what I'm wondering about this morning. Voluntary simplicity by definition if voluntary (duh.) I am volunteering to simplify my life. It's my choice. My boys don't particularly get the whole concept yet. At times I am forcing this voluntary action on them.

Of course, I forced massive consumption on them for years. They didn't come out of the womb asking for a nursery full of stuffed animals, board books, baby blocks and color coordinated decor. All they wanted when they were born was food, comfort, a clean diaper, and love. That's all.

The rest was given to them by those who love them, and they learned that stuff is a part of life. I basically allowed them to be trained that stuff is a right. And now, I'm trying to reverse that. So, I shouldn't be surprised when they want the stuff on the boardwalk.

For those of you who are trying to live more simply, how are you bringing your kids along with you? What have you done that has been a success? What little gems have spewed out of your mouth as you have been trying to change the habits that you've instilled in them in the first place? Tell me your stories.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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