Friday, October 2, 2009

Getting and Spending

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"
--William Wordsworth

Yesterday afternoon I got in line behind at least one hundred people at the Taylor County Expo Center. Then a couple of hundred more people got in line behind me. When the doors were opened at 5:00, we all filed in and started loading up our baskets, strollers, wagons, and shopping carts with so much stuff. It is hard to describe the scene to those who have never seen the round building at the Expo Center. If you have seen it, imagine that whole space filled to the very walls with dozens of clothing racks, tables full of toys, a small sea of strollers, high chairs, nursery furniture, and back yard gear, tables covered in baby bathtubs, training toilets, and breastfeeding supplies, and more besides. I am not exaggerating when I say that this sale will surely outgrow this building and be forced to move to an even bigger space in the future. Those of us shopping for clothes were elbow to elbow. I thought of Wordsworth's sonnet all evening.

I think the huge bi-annual consignment sale is a wonderful thing for families who just want to save some money on kids' clothes, gear, and furniture and for those who want a good way to clear out clutter. For me, it's both. I can sell the things we no longer need and the things we never needed but thought we did; and I can get clothes for Benjamin for the next six months for WAY cheaper than retail. But looking around at all of the other stuff, mainly the vast sea of toys, made me think of Wordsworth. Why do we think our children need all of these toys? Are they supposed to make them happy? Newsflash: Kids are happy with the attention of their parents and the things they can create with crayons and a big cardboard box. Are they supposed to make them smart? May I remind you that the child Albert Einstein never had "Baby Einstein" dvds to boost his brain power? Some of these toys claim to provide good exercise for kids. Um, ever heard of crawling, climbing, walking, running, swimming, playing with mommy and daddy, rolling a ball you can get for 50 cents at Walmart?

I am seriously considering adding a "gift suggestion" note to Benjamin's first birthday invitation with things like empty paper towel rolls, cardboard boxes, empty plastic bottles, blank paper and a couple of crayons, etc. Benjamin has so many toys already, and he loves playing with them. I just don't feel the need to overstimulate him with so many more in the future that he can never remember them. Do you still remember the ones you loved? For me, they were the simple ones--a stuffed moose with rollerskates, a sock monkey, books--not the ones my parents and grandparents spent a small fortune on--like the Barbie waterpark that we played with maybe five times. But it is so hard, as parents, to resist the temptation when we see so many cute things so reasonably priced. They all promise so much to people who just want the very best for their kids, for their kids to have everything. I find myself browsing the Fisher Price toys online and just drooling over things like a toy lawnmower (how cute is that?!) or what can only be accurately described as a giant, plastic babysitter disguised as a "walker." I probably shouldn't admit this, but I seriously thought about getting a miniature ball pit for him (only $60!!).

But in the end, Wordsworth had it right. We need to learn from nature. I could get Benjamin a plastic lawnmower or I could take him outside to smell the freshly mown lawn. I could invest in a baby-sized barnyard, or I could take him to visit a real farm (or both--I do love those little barnyards!). I could buy so many plastic things and it still wouldn't be as much fun as watching a seven month old strain as hard as he can to pick up a pie pumpkin today. And later, when I cut up the pumpkin and make it into baby food, I will enjoy letting him watch from his high chair. I will tell him what I'm doing and let him smell the cinnamon (I have to add cinnamon) and know that mommy time is better than all the toys that are designed to make him a bilingual, early allstar athelete, sign-language proficient prodigy.

And I will still go to the consignment sale, probably every year.


Amber said...

Benjamin is welcome to come over and play in our recycle bin any time he wants. Your "gift suggestion" list just about covers everything that is in there!

Shanna said...

I love this post! It's absolutely the truth, and that Wordsworth sonnet is right on the money when it comes to our consumer habits. "The world is too much with us..." indeed.