I wish I was a Montessori type minimalist. It is kind of my dream. In reality, I am just a bit too chaotic for it. I try my best to keep our 'stuff' to a minimum but unfortunately my kids are huge fans of building toys, which means there is always a painful obstacle course strewn across our floor. In my life before kids though, I was definitely closer to a minimalist. Mainly because I am pretty cheap! My partner and I decided though, early in our relationship, that rather than tear our hair out trying to come up with new gifts on birthdays and holidays, we would invest that money in 'experiences'. Dinner out (because we rarely do that) or a holiday. Living in England meant we could hop over to some new place in Europe for the weekend, frequently. So experiences won over new stuff all the time.
Fast forward to our present day two-child existence and saving money for experiences isn't as easy as it once was. Sure, in the past I could wear jeans with holes in the knees for years and hope maybe I looked cool (really I was cheap). I could get away buying a few key pieces of clothes each year, because I wasn't a sprouting little person in need of an entirely new wardrobe practically every season! Kids cost money though! My goodness they cost a lot of money. I am not even talking about the $1000 strollers or $100s on classes or 30 birthday parties a year. Just the day to day upkeep of them is crazy.
When it comes to the stuff though (and I mean the toys and the gadgets and the constant I want, I want, I want) I really work hard to be selective. It means fighting some daily battles and feeling guilty (I don't want to be a guilty mom but I ALWAYS feel guilty about something) but in the long run I think it is worth it. We don't give in to every want and whim. We don't buy a million gifts, we buy a few well picked ones.
My youngest (who is almost 3) is still too young to really understand birthdays and Christmas. He enjoyed the last ones but didn't realise he was going to be getting presents. So it was all just grateful reactions. My 5 year old though, he knows what it is all about now. We are really working on gratitude with him but it is a hard age. My friend has this and I saw this on TV and look over there oh my goodness it is my favourite thing in the whole wide world. He must be really sick of hearing me say, "We'll add that to a wish list for your birthday!". He doesn't get it. Yet.
I know one day he will get it and it will be worth the effort.
For Christmas this year I planned a city break. We got a hotel room downtown and I booked tickets for the CN Tower (despite gagging at the cost of what I assumed would probably be only a 20 minute visit!) and the aquarium. We picked a hotel with a kids pool, playroom and pet bunnies (my youngest has not stopped talking about the bunnies!). We went to the theatre and saw a show. We wandered the Christmas markets at night and marvelled at the lights and shop windows (which I am so glad they still do because I remember looking at them when I was a child). We let them eat donuts before bed (we're pretty strict with sugar, again - mom guilt - when everyone around us is always indulging and my kid's licking an apple with a glum face).
I know my kids are probably a bit too young to really remember the details of this weekend. But it will be our tradition and we will talk about it and pictures will help jog memories and I think they will remember the feeling. That holiday feeling of us having special time together as a family. I think they will remember that feeling a lot more than they will remember opening yet another pack of LEGO on Christmas morning. So I will keep fighting those daily I want, I want battles so we can build up a collection of family memories.
So which side of the fence do you fall on? Experience over stuff? Or are you like me and kind of battling to sit in the middle?
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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