Saturday, February 8, 2014

Less Is More

I was thinking the other day about how the phrase "we want more for our kids" is often thrown around, and the idea that as parents, we want our kids to have more than we had. But more of what exactly? From where I sit now, it seems that just by virtue of growing up in middle-class America today, my boys will have more than I had: more toys, more books, more stuff, more choices of activities, more opportunities to travel. That seems like a good thing, until I stop and think that I had plenty of toys, books, and stuff, no shortage of things to do, and a healthy amount of travel opportunities. So maybe I don't want more for my boys. Maybe I want to make sure in a time of more, their lives don't get too cluttered up. Maybe rather than giving them more than I had, I want to make sure they aren't so busy and distracted that they miss out on the things I did, and still do, have.

I want them to have toys that they love deeply and play with to exhaustion, not just lots of toys. I can remember elaborate Lego constructions, detailed farming operations with tiny toy tractors, and hours and hours of caring for a favorite doll.

I want my boys to not be over-scheduled with lessons and practices, and to fully engage in the activities they do choose. I remember my brother taking karate lessons, and giving them up when he decided to play basketball in middle school. In elementary school, we had an after-school art club and phys-ed club, but when I got my horse in fifth grade, taking care of her after school became my priority. I want Colter and Elliott to find the things they enjoy and excel at, not be signed up for every activity available. I hope as a parent I can look at my kids and recognize when they are ready for sports or lessons, and if they are tiring of them, when is the right time to let them step away. And as a family, I don't want us to be frazzled by running in so many different directions that we lose touch with each other and don't even sit down to meals together.

I don't know what technology and social media will look like when these two are old enough for it, but I want them to have plenty of meaningful face-to-face contact with the people in their lives. I was so lucky to grow up in close proximity to much of my family, in and out of my grandparents' house nearly as often as my own and seeing my cousins daily. We didn't have to think about cultivating those relationships because we saw each other so frequently, and I want my boys to be close to all of their family, even if it takes a little more work to arrange seeing each other.

Vacations in my family were never elaborate affairs when I was young: Maine, the shore, a trip to the Southwest when my brother was stationed in Arizona, a trip to the Outer Banks with a stop in Williamsburg and Jamestown, a few bus trips to New York and Washington, DC. During college, I was lucky enough to take trips to London and a cruise to Bermuda. When Keith and I talk about what vacations we want to take with our boys, we want to share with them the places we love and the beautiful sights and history this country has to offer, and we aren't particularly interested in resorts and theme parks. I am so excited to share Maine with Colter and Elliott, who are the fifth generation of my family to vacation at that very spot. I hope they get to see every inch of the world that interests them, but I don't feel that it has to happen in the timeline of their childhood. (Keith and I dream of a trip to England and Ireland, sans children. So twenty years from now, perhaps?) I hope, too, that they find places they love and want to return to again and again, that feel as much like home to them as the home they live in.

I don't think my boys need any more than I had, but I want them to have plenty: plenty of time to explore, play and learn; plenty of family and love; plenty of enthusiasm for the world around them, near and far; and plenty of opportunities to grow. I want them to have just what I had.

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