Saturday, December 03, 2005

Vacation

As you could probably tell, Doug and Nicole were on vacation recently. Yes, that's right: Doug and Nicole. Not Brad! He was living it up at Grandma and Grandpa Ludovici's, where there were so many people to pick him up and play with him and entertain him and satisfy his every desire. Meanwhile, Doug and Nicole were having a grand time at "The Happiest Celebration on Earth." Yeah, that's Disney's new slogan. Yet we saw so many crying and unhappy children all over the Magic Kingdom. It made both of us glad that we had not brought Brad, who undoubtedly would have been one of those children after being deprived of a nap and fed nothing but fat and chocolate.

This is turning into an odd entry, but I think I'll keep going. What I'm trying to say is that we were somewhat taken aback by the excess of consumer culture in one concentrated area. Everything that could possibly be stamped with the word "Disney" or a picture of Mickey Mouse was being sold, from magnets to clothing, from chocolate to water. While we enjoyed our time VERY much, we came away more determined than ever to bring Brad up to appreciate everything given to him. So many of the children there seemed to think it was their right to have whatever they wanted, and from what we witnessed, the parents seemed to think it was their duty to step up and provide.

Does anyone remember elementary school social studies? I do. In third grade we were taught the difference between 'wants' and 'needs.' The teacher told us that food, shelter, and clothing were needs. Toys, games, and designer clothing were all wants. Even a car was a want.

At Disney I was reminded of the difference between wants and needs and how often we as adults confuse them. I'm not talking about the latest toy fad--it's easy to refuse to buy those items. I'm talking about what we as adults feel that our children MUST have. We want our children to have 'experiences.' We want them to have 'advantages.' Yet, so often, those exeriences and advantages are little more than a ruse to mask indifferent parenting.

Which is easier: to tell yourself and everyone that you want your child to enjoy himself, to have a wonderful time, to come away with fabulous memories of family time spent together at the Magic Kindgom--something he'll remember forever--so you buy him a toy, and then a shirt, and then some Mickey ears, and you take him on all the best rides. And he gets tired and cranky because, frankly, it's been a long day and he's had a lot of sugar. And he demands cotton candy for dinner and starts to pitch a fit. So you buy him cotton candy and he's happy and you're happy and everyone has a great time. And maybe your child will have wonderful memories of everyone being so hapy together on that trip.

Or is it easier to tell your child that he may not have cotton candy? And when he proceeds to be very upset, to tell him that you'll have to take him back to the hotel if he can't behave himself. And then to follow through and actually take him back, even though you really wanted to see that stage production coming up.

Granted, I haven't tried it yet, but I'm guessing it would be easier to buy the cotton candy.

It's a very small thing. A small thing indeed. But take one such incident and add it to another, and another, and 18 years have passed and it's not that you've taught your child nothing. You've taught him lots of things...not to steal, or murder, or break the law. To help people and be polite and say please and thank you. You've also taught him to expect to be given things. You've taught him not to appreciate things he's been given. You haven't taught him to be thankful, or unassuming. You haven't taught him graciousness.

Well, this is genuinely not what I set out to write about, but it does capture what Doug and I were thinking during our visit and continue to be thinking of today.

1 comment:

Deep said...

I have been reading this blog for a quite some time, mainly because I just love the pictures, and the stories they convey... In one sentence, brad's so cute!!

But I just wanted to say I thoroughly appreciated what you wrote in your blog today. Kids today are being targetted by corporations as a way to enter households - a very clever business strategy indeed... And parents need to understand between loving their child, and giving in to him every single time, however far-fetched the childs expectations are. I think, you made a wonderful point, and I hope you occasionaly write some more entries like this one, in addition to the awesome pics!