I like Kirsten Greenidge’s piece in the Boston Globe about what she did when her children had tantrums in a store. She said she understands the appeal of “stuff.” And she described how the seemingly harmless fun of posting photos on Pinterest can lead to an adult version of the gimmies. She resolved to put her kids on a no-stuff diet until the next special occasion, even no free lollipop at the bank. She is going to teach her kids to be more present in their interactions with things.
This is perhaps not the most fulfilling way to meander through life, this coveting, this curating of stuff. It is a means of focusing inward, of connecting to others through objects that are, when all is said and done, simply objects. They make poor substitutes for actual human interaction and connection.
Still, from the back seat, each kid howled. I had come between them and their stuff. I was altering their view of the world — a view that it is OK if your need for more objects affirming your place in the universe takes over your experience as a human being.
Over the weekend, my husband and I drove by what was once, in the days of VHS, a video store. I told him that once, when our son was about 2, I stood with him on the sidewalk in front before we went inside and told him that we did not have time to pick out a new movie, so we were just going to go inside long enough to return one, and he should not ask me to stay. Our son said he understood. A man walking past us stopped to listen. “That works?” he said incredulously. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of giving in to the “stuff” monster. But it is a much greater gift to teach children to value what they have.