Sunday, November 04, 2007

holidays, consumerism, and kids

The Sunday paper brought with it some very unwelcome companions today: the Target and Meijer toy preview magazines. These glossy, attractive mini-catalogs were very popular at the breakfast table. The kids read and reread them, talking about what they wanted. It was very hard for me to acknowledge their excitement without a)buying into it and encouraging it or b) putting a huge damper on it by talking about the social and environmental ills associated with most holiday consumption.

Now that the season is upon us, I am going to have to work these issues into our conversations. I want them to understand why I don't want to spend money on cheap (and not so cheap) plastic toys. I want them to make the connection between their consumption and someone else's labor. I also want them to make the connection between their consumption and the environment. What happens to the packaging? Howdo the toys get here from China? What resources are being used to make the toys? The folks over at New American Dream have some good tips and resources to get me started.

I am working hard at trying to make Christmas more experience-based and less toy-based, but that is going to take lots of time and energy on my part. We have to develop ways to lessen the short-term thrill of opening a ton of presents on Christmas day. Instead, I want to focus on having adventures and doing activities that will make long-term memories.

Another component of this is making the holidays a process. Decorating the house and tree are events in and of themselves; I need to treat them that way by involving R and the kids.

I would love to create photo books for the kids of our vacations and other special things in their lives for Christmas. I don't know if I will get to it this year, but that is definitely something they would love, and it would fall right in line with my values. It will also encourage me to use the wonderful new camera R bought. ;)

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