Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being thankful...for all the choices we made.

Am I the only one who is not taking advantage of Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday? I realize many are indulging in shopping frenzies...in the name of spurring economic growth.

It's not that I find shopping to be in bad taste, while so many New Yorkers are still struggling to find homes and they lost all their possessions during Superstorm Sandy (which happened less than a month ago). I would just rather teach my child that the path to happiness is not about acquiring a ton of unnecessary material goods. Studies have shown that sales result in people buying many items they would not have bought otherwise...so the savings isn't great since you are spending money you could have saved...and most people end up in debt during the holiday season, thanks to the fabulous bargains. Having to use a credit card, because you don't have enough in your budget, to buy a toy or electronic gadget is going into debt...no matter how fast you *think* you will pay it off.

OH, I see...the poll on CNN shows that 85% of 22,304 readers will NOT shop on Black Friday. So, I'm not alone. The media push to buy is really sad...especially in bad economic times...making people feel like they need to do their part and scrape together money to buy, buy, buy. I'd rather save, save, save. I think what I am teaching LC will help her later in life. I'd rather spend money on experiences anyway...moments that will give her meaningful memories...in NYC and our adventures outside of the Big Apple.

Fortunately, my daughter enjoys making gifts and so do I. She is only expecting one gift from Santa (she wants a harp...and a lap harp, which is the right size for her, is about $35). She is very appreciative and grateful and doesn't desire anything else from Santa. She is hoping I can make her a doll for Christmas (and I'm trying...good luck, Petek) But, perhaps it's easy to raise her to be this way...because she never watches commercials. It was a choice to not own a TV, for many reasons. It feels like we have tons of extra quality time to spend on activities that matter to us. She has many play dates (and makes new friends constantly everywhere we go...like today...a sweet girl named Maya gave LC a beautiful leaf in the park when saying bye, after they played together...a simple leaf means so much to young kids!) and we attend various classes, shows and workshops together all over NYC, where LC chats with other kids...but she does NOT go to preschool (never went to nursery school, daycare etc.) So, she is not influenced by a group of peers who are constantly in need of the latest new toy and showing off what their parents just bought for them.

I just saw this video on CNN, Lose the toys - kids happy with boxes:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_c2#/video/bestoftv/2012/11/21/wcmh-teacher-replaces-toys-with-boxes.wcmh

"A preschool teacher took away the toys in his classroom and was surprised to receive zero complaints."

Um...yeah. Is that a revelation? Perhaps if more teachers had the experience of raising kids (without electronic gadgets and plastic toys) rather than just reading theory about child development...they would know what I have known for years. LC and her friends LOVE cardboard boxes. They love to pretend the boxes are boats, airplanes, houses etc. They like to decorate them...they like to sit inside them and create their own stories.

Sure, the preschool teacher would feel pretty useless handing out boxes to kids if he didn't claim that these scenarios are important for young children...um, because the young kids show "leadership" skills. YEAH. I was on a bus today and a mom asked another mom's pre-k child how many languages she speaks...she said three: English, Spanish and German. The other mom gasped and said "wow, that will make you so valuable in the business world!" WOW...I think she is valuable just as a human being. And if she likes to learn languages because it's fun and she enjoys expressing herself in that manner, then it's wonderful. She is a creative, compassionate being...rocking her own unique interests and observations. Her worth doesn't have to be linked to the corporate world at the tender age of 4.

I sometimes struggle with how much LC should conform. She recently took a class where she was asked to sing the Gingerbread Man song. LC sang it one week, but then refused the second week. I thought she simply didn't know the words (but I was wrong, because weeks later...out of the blue, she sang it to me perfectly...she wanted to prove that she knew it). The teacher told me that LC wouldn't sing the song. There I was trying to pressure a 4 year old to sing this darn song to please that teacher. And, for the first time, LC looked miserable about singing. She has been composing her own songs for at least two years already...it makes her so happy. She makes up the music and the lyrics everywhere we go (subway/bus riders don't seem to appreciate that ;-) and she sings her own songs, from memory. She performs her songs (gets up on anything that resembles a stage) and hopes that others will learn her songs. Yes, she also knows some nursery rhymes of course...and she LOVES repeating awesome songs she hears from favorite family bands. SO, what was the problem with the Gingerbread Man song?

Well, according to LC: "You said you love me the way I am...I dream that everyone want to sing my songs in the whole world and I want to teach them in class but teacher want me to sing another song. It wasn't a good song. The gingerbread man was just running and running and saying catch me. He need to stop and talk about why he was running, what happened and where he was going. There was a fly in the room that scared me, too, and I stand up to get away from it."

So...I decided this wasn't a good fit for her. There's no need for a young child to feel pressure. We have plenty of it later in life.

In general, with traditional classes...kids are expected to know ONE, RIGHT answer. Everything seems to be geared to multiple choice exams. Whereas, LC is more of an essay person. Same goes for me.

LC has this light from within and I don't want to dim it. The way my light was dimmed when I was a child. I don't want to tell her to sit quiet and memorize what others tell her is important and constantly submit to being assessed. She feels joy when she learns in a self-directed fashion, hands-on...she feels joy when she can interact with kids and adults, without being told that it's not time to be social...and it feels cruel to have such a strict structure with young children in an enclosed space 6 hours a day (telling them when to eat, talk, stand, go to the bathroom...learn each subject upon command, compete against others, waste a lot of time waiting to participate etc.).

She is curious, bright, kind and friendly. I can't imagine us being happier than we are now, with the choices we have made. For that, I am thankful.

Tomorrow we are going to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal, because that's what LC wanted. She saw that in a Charlie Brown holiday movie. Then, we'll have a nice long walk in a park...and perhaps a visit to the zoo (our Wildlife Conservation Society family membership makes it worth it to go for even one hour). So thankful for a simple, peaceful day with loved ones tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!