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Maybe it was due to the budget being tight. Or moving every year, which meant packing and shipping and unpacking—until the next time—when the government and my dad wanted those boxes as light as possible. And my mom disliked clutter.

Our home was minimally decorated before minimal décor was a trend. An oil painting on one wall, one framed family photo on another. Bland solid colors, few knick-knacks, a lava lamp, stereo, television, a simple toaster…

At the babysitters I gravitated to the toy box, hoping to find something decent for occupying my time with, until my parents returned to take me back home to my nice stuff, to my clean stuff. I’d hunt for the prettiest doll, the least broken dishes, a puzzle or game with every piece in the box, even a book or two with pages intact.

It just wasn’t any fun playing with stained or broken toys. And what’s the point of organizing a game if pieces are missing?

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Back in the solitude of my own room I treasured my stuff. I was responsible, careful, and yes, even possessive, because as I said, money was hard to come by. As a teen I made a whopping dollar-fifty-an-hour babysitting, and Grandma only sent five dollars for my birthday, when she could spare them. So I learned to economize, to find the best deal for my scant handful of cash.

I’ll always remember getting the round yellow transistor radio for Christmas as a young teen. I still had it years after I married. And it still worked. With a single nine-volt battery.

Crocodile Rock and Stayin’ Alive no longer blared. But I took care of my stuff… my doll collection from world travels, a few pieces of jewelry, a couple antique boxes handed down from relatives, the warmest afghan hand-crocheted just for me—all things I cherished, and packed and unpacked and re-packed as a wife and mom. Now the afghan is my girl’s favorite.

When did capitalism become a bad thing? You know, private ownership attached to personal responsibility.

And when did it become the norm in families (and schools and dorm rooms) for all property to belong to the mini-community as a whole? Could it stem from a day-care mentality?

You purchase and bring home a new camera or CD player, and I snatch it to play with it first. Assuming it must be up for grabs. And if I break it, Oh well

You have it. I want it. So, hand it over.

Or I’ll tell on you for not sharing.

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It’s the latest cultural cry, with siblings fighting over clothes and shoes and toys in communal playrooms and modern household walk-in closets.

We’re a new breed of individualists. What’s yours is mine if I want it, because you’re supposed to share. And if I tear a hole in your favorite sweater or scuff your shoes, and you get upset, you’re too attached to your stuff, and way too materialistic.

And I lose the motivation to work and buy and care for things, because you might not treat my things the way I do, so I’ll subsist with the bare necessities. And use your stuff whenever I want to.

Yes, some things belong to the family (or the couple, the boys, the girls). And lots of activities are more fun with a group.

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But not everything and not all.

Children should learn good stewardship, to learn the pride of ownership, the rewards of accomplishment, the concept of working for and managing and maintaining their stuff.

In teaching our children to share everything, we’re neglecting to teach them other important values.

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Like thinking ahead and being prepared and counting the cost.

Keeping track of my stuff and not leaving tools out in the weather means these things can be re-used; it means they haven’t vanished (begging to be replaced—another expense).

And I’m saving money, being frugal, thrifty—all archaic words referring to a lost art from another era: managing money with caution, wisdom, economy. Learning when to share and when to save.

Like, what is disposable income anyway?

With credit too easy to come by, and banks offering a pathetic 2% interest or less on savings accounts, we’re hardly encouraged to put our money aside, or to value the potential those dollars carry.

And no, I’m not talking about turning into Scrooge.

I’m just looking for a little more balance.

And less socialism.

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