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Monday, November 29, 2010

too much is too much

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This weekend, my wonderful husband chose to be super helpful around the house. For that, I am very thankful. During his time off from work, he mulched the leaves, cleaned the gutters, watched the children so I could sleep after shopping all night, stayed home while I went out to the Star City Comedy Club with good friend, Jannine, got the Christmas decorations out of the attic and did the dishes. And, you know what? I didn't even ask him to do any many of these things. What a dear!

The thing is, he hit a snag the last time he did the dishes.  The soap packet that had been put into the dishwasher for the previous run had not dissolved.  So, my handy husband decided he would add Dawn dishwashing detergent to the cup to get the job done.  I think he may have mentioned that we were also out of the Cascade packs.  I don't remember.  At any rate, he squirted a cupful of Dawn (the type you use to hand wash dishes) into the machine.  He turned it on.  A little while later, he went to get something from the kitchen and found a mess.  "Oh....." he groaned.  I asked what was the matter and he told me, "There are some bubbles on the floor."  Some bubbles?  A good quarter of the kitchen was covered in suds.  Oh my!  Deja vu, anyone?

For the second time in three months, I started to clean up a wet mess.  We bypassed the bath towel route this time because I didn't want to add to my backed-up laundry pile.  Instead, he grabbed the mop and I used the dust mop.  He would swing his tool across the sudsy floor, and I would push back, trying to keep the water and bubbles from spreading even further.  It felt like we were playing a gentle game of hockey, or participating in that weird-ass Olympic sport, curling.

Eventually, we were able to get the floor mostly dry and we turned our attention to the dishwasher.  You see, when John walked into the kitchen, soap was pouring out of the front of the machine.  He promptly turned it off, to minimize the flooding, but we realized we would soon have to deal with the mess inside.  Opening the door, we found a wall of bubbles.  Slowly, but surely, we began to scoop them out until the were nearly gone.  When we had removed as much soap as possible, we turned on the dishwasher to let it finish the cycle.  Water continued to dribble out for much of that run, but now our machine is as good as new and cleaner than it has been in a very long time.

This whole ordeal got me to thinking (bad idea, I know!).  A lot of times, we think that if a little is good, then a lot is a whole lot better.  Like the little squirt of dawn turning into a good half cup being poured into the dishwasher.  We have a tendency to go for the overkill, especially with our children.

Christmas is coming.  I have a difficult time moderating how many gifts my kids receive.  I just love to give them things and there are so many toys and items on the market that they would love to have.  Once I get started buying presents, I find it so hard to stop.  But, is more really better when it comes to giving things to our kids?  Or, should they learn the life lessons that go along with disappointment and/or hard work?

While waiting in line to shop at Toys R Us on Thanksgiving night, I spoke with Jessica, a young mother of a two year old boy.  Her son will be receiving many things this Christmas, among them a 32" flat screen television.  Her reasoning?  He needs something to entertain him.  Feel free to roll your eyes.  Inwardly, I did, too.  My response, "My kids are getting an aquarium."  Jessica's mother, who was along for the ride, just about died laughing.

You see, over the years I have come to realize that the bigger and better presents aren't always the best.  If you get your two year old a giant tv, then what is there to look forward to as he grows up?  Hell, we don't even have a tv that big in my home.  When Alex was young, he was overly spoiled.  I couldn't wait to get him the next best thing for his "age."  However, I failed to realize that just because he was in the appropriate "age range," and I was able to buy the items, they weren't necessarily suitable playthings for his stage.

When you jump ahead and buy anything and everything for your children, they lose more than they gain.  The kids no longer become enthralled with the gifts they receive, they become spoiled, and they lose interest in their toys more quickly.  They don't learn the value of hard work with suitable rewards, nor do they experience the thrill of receiving something they have longed for. Things become disposable.  In general, items lose their value when they are given by the bucket load.  While a squirt of generosity is good, a cupful just creates a mess. 

How will you balance your desire to give it all with your children's need of moderation and value this season?  What are the top gifts on your list?  Will you go all out, or will you (attempt) to keep it simple and sane?


  1. yikes on the bubbly overflow!
    also, ash and coop are getting one gift from mommy and daddy ($30 or less) and 3-4 dollar bin gifts from santa.

  2. My mom always had one major gift, and a couple of supportive gifts: this way the major gift was the star of Christmas, and the supportive gifts were just that--things we wanted that were not expensive, and didn't detract from the main thing. She also always made us very thoughtful stockings--to this day my stocking is still my favorite part of Christmas.

    I think when you over indulge kids they don't grow up to appreciate the work, effort, and thought that goes into gifts. I think its possible to simply overwhelm them with "things" so they don't know how to be thankful--or can't be, because there is just so much. Being overwhelmed and therefore generically thankful doesn't really teach them anything about the actual process. Also, if they don't have an opportunity to "want" things then you are not teaching them how to earn things.

    Easy for me to say, I just have a dog. :-) But I have several half brothers, and I've been able to see how they were raised compared to me and Justin (with substantially different parenting practices and financial resources) and, even though they've grown up to be awesome young men, their approach to work/money/savings/gifts is completely different from me and Justin. Theyve always gotten everything they wanted, and they don't see a reason to go out into the world and earn anything now. It doesn't bother them--they don't make demands, they just don't initiate either.


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