Lessons in Life

As I was cleaning the fridge this morning, I started to daydream about having a new fridge freezer – one of those fancy, huge American-style ones with double doors and an ice and water dispenser.

Then my thoughts drifted to the tiny fridge my Grandparents own, one of those small 70’s ones with a tiny freezer compartment at the top and just about enough room for a few pints of milk, some veg and butter. It occurred to me how happy my Grandparents are – they never appear to want material things, and are entirely happy with the seemingly outdated yet perfectly functional things they have. My Grandparents are in their 80’s; born pre-World War II, they hail from an era of ‘waste not, want not’, when people had little and didn’t possess an insatiable need for new material things.

Perhaps if they’d had endless media being streamed to them 24-hours a day advertising the latest in technology, or reality TV shows or glossy celebrity magazines giving an insight into how the rich and famous lived, then they might have developed a taste for material things.

I then started to worry about the types of values I was teaching my children. I have this image in my mind of being a person that avoids the whole ‘disposable’ lifestyle of buying things that are then thrown away a short time later, only to be replaced by something else. I also vowed before Toddler was born to never have a household full of plastic toys. Unfortunately somewhere along the way these vows dissolved and I am guilty of buying Toddler lots of (often plastic) toys to fit in with his latest obsession. He currently loves Bob the Builder, so I got hold of some Bob toys (thanks to my cousin I have some lovely second hand Bob machines such as Scoop and Roley and have just put a bid in on Ebay for a Dizzy toy). It was the same when he loved In the Night Garden and whatever other phase he was going through.

But would my children be better off without these things? I’m not suggesting we just offer our kids a couple of cardboard boxes and a piece of string or something, though am sure they’d get a few hours of fun from it none the less! What did strike me, is the values that my Grandparents have – a respect for others, honesty, hard work, not expecting things to be handed to them freely, generosity (they are endlessly generous with their time, thoughts and money, often giving away the little they have). They’ve worked to pass these values onto their family and I like to think they’ve done a good job. Now it’s my turn to pass them onto my children.

I came across a great post from Becoming Minimalist (who I’ve quoted before) about the 15 things children should value more than possessions, many of which are the themes that my Grandparents believe in. Check out the post here.

Parenting.com also has a nice post on the 5 values we should teach our kids, including honesty, consideration, justice, determination and love. They include some great anecdotes from small children too which made me smile – we can certainly learn a thing or two from their perspective on the world.

The most important thing is that our children learn from us every day. The values we hold and the actions we take will imprint on their growing minds and they will take their cues from us. So what is it we really want them to learn? What kind of adults do we want them to grow up to be?

Bearing these issues in mind, the next time I start daydreaming about a new fridge freezer, or go to click that ‘Bid’ button on Ebay, I might just have a think about what life lessons I could be teaching my little ones instead that don’t involve material possessions. Maybe I’ll learn something too!