Before I became a parent, I had dinner with some co-workers whose children I found admirable. When I asked, “What’s your formula for success in raising kind, engaged, intelligent children?”
They responded, “They watched no TV.”
I intended to teach limits, not be a TV Nazi.
But they went on, “They watched plenty of DVDs. They just didn’t watch commercial television, so we avoided ads for buying toys and candy.”
Smart. Very smart.
I’m reminded of this every time my son goes down a rabbit hole of acquisition requests: “Daddy? Can I get a little ‘Scruff’ [a friend of Thomas] for my birthday and a ‘Glitter Glider Sleeping Beauty’ for my birthday and a ‘Zoe Zebra’ stuffed animal for my birthday and a racetrack for my birthday and four pink donuts for my birthday and the ‘Jasmine’ princess movie [Aladdin] and ‘surprise eggs’ for my birthday?”
Thank goodness he’s accepted the “maybe for you birthday” mantra and doesn’t scream, “NO! I WANT IT NOW!”
He will go on and on and on about what he wants.
I blame YouTube.
For the last year, Ellison has navigated their app on the iPad with freakish dexterity. What started as watching episodes of “Thomas the Train,” became home videos of spoiled children opening packages (thanks to the “Suggestions” column).
In some hilarious cases, the complacent kids mutter, “Oh. A new princess,” or “Oh. A new train,” like an over-it Honey Boo-Boo.
These genius product-placement videos are manipulated by Hasbro and Mattel. The companies send new toys to these kids with large YouTube followings and it’s virtually-free advertising.
It’s worked on my kid. He sees other kids opening presents and he wants more, more, more.
This really pissed me off at Christmas. Ellison didn’t understand virgin birth, but did understand demanding presents.
And my issue met new validation by the Pope, this last week.
Yeah, I’m not Catholic and I scoff at 19th century values espoused from this world leader’s bully pulpit. And Pope Francis is still fighting the gays (though with some evolution on the matter…pun definitely not intended).
But more important, Pope Francis’ encyclical about the environment is revolutionary. He took tree-hugging stewardship a step further than “please recycle” by blaming capitalism and consumption for man-made climate change.
He applied environmental morality to economics.
This is unheard of outside of a university philosophy department (I totally took that class in Boulder). And world leaders don’t touch morality with a ten-foot pole because they’re all pawns of businessmen. (I totally stirred that liberal Kool-Aid in Boulder.)
(No surprise, he didn’t address over-population, something for which Catholic leaders would be kicked out of their club. Further, he questions market manipulation of carbon credits…which is stupid.)
To my unscientific mind, no other global leader has told us “stop buying so much shit!” Such a reasonable prescription for saving the world would be political suicide. Money in pockets trump slowing climate change.
But imagine: if we watched less YouTube product-placement videos and reduced the crap we buy, we’d save on packaging, burning fuel, deforestation, mining precious metals, drilling for oil.
Not to mention, parents and kids might find happiness in something other than buying new bling. We might read a few more library books, cultivate imaginations, and spend more quality time together. (OMG. I’m sounding so conservative.)
I’m hesitant about any Pope, but this move?- this strong statement beseeching us to save ourselves from soulless capitalism? – this is visionary and revolutionary.
Do I think this will change anything, short-term? Absolutely not.
Am I adopting an ascetic limit to 100 personal possessions? Hell-to-the-no.
But I’m inspired by a world leader speaking a truth no other world leader will mention.
Good for Pope Francis.
I’m going to be more cognizant of buying crap.
And YouTube is no longer an option on our iPad. (Conveniently, YouTube’s progeny, KidsFlix, has annoying kids’ programming but without insidious advertisements selling crap.)
Avoiding commercial TV is tough.
But the Pope’s words are tougher.
My kids are stuck with tougher.
How do you avoid endless buying of crap? Any suggestions to save the world á la Pope F?