Monday, May 30, 2005

Simplicity versus kids

I have come to the conclusion you cannot have true peace, contentment, and simplicity if you have children. I'm trying valiantly to let go of my fears; in fact, my e-mail meditation was on that very subject today. What fears are involved in striving for simplicity?

In the first place, we have always tended to hoard. Why? Because we might need it someday!
Aha! Fear of being in want. This is true of my collection of quilt books as it is of my collection of rubber bands and clothes that no longer fit. I can't count the times Ed has told me, "I gave away that jacket two years ago and now I could sure use it." He then tends to want to replace the object, which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of paring down. We are trying to face this specific fear and transcend it.

Fear is closely connected to worry. Now here is where the kids come into the story! I worry about their relationships, their finances, their jobs. I worry about whether they are making the right decisions. I worry about their being involved in a car wreck. I worry about their health, their eating habits, their exercise habits, if they are seeing the doctor and dentist on a timely basis. I worry how loss will affect them, how grief will strike them. I worry that they will move far, far away and I won't get to see them....(Yes, Matt, this is about you, you West Coast dreamer!)

I just have two kids. I wonder if someone has, say, five kids, is their worry compounded? Or maybe my 2-kid worries stretch to fill the available "worry space"?

Then there's the idea of shopping. Buying and accumulating more is against everything we are trying to do for ourselves right now as we are downsizing. But the key words here are for ourselves. There's always a loophole in life, right? And I am the first one to take advantage of a loophole as fast as I take advantage of a cute denim pair of overalls with flower embroidery - on sale - in Caroline's size. I can (fairly easily) restrict things I buy for myself. But my kids and their spouses and especially my 2-year-old Caroline - that's where it gets hard.

My point is that once you have children, you have to work extra hard on simplifying, and I am not even sure it's possible to simplify as successfully as one could simplify without children.

My mother, of course, has mastered the art of simplifying for herself but not for her family. She will joyfully shop at the Goodwill for herself and send me an outfit from LL Bean for my birthday.

I remember that when Ed and I were in Weight Watchers once, some of the women were bemoaning the fact that their houses were filled with treats and it was too tempting for them to resist. The leader asked, "Why are there treats in the house?" One woman's answer underscored what I am trying to say here. She said, "Just because I'm on a diet, I shouldn't punish the children!" I remember at this point Ed turned to me and whispered, "So what is she teaching the children? To grow up as heavy as she is?"

Somewhere in my attempt to rein in my spending (and my effort to consider carefully what purchases I make) I must ask myself if my joy in showering Caroline with gifts may in effect be teaching her that "things" mean "happiness" and that "more things" mean "more happiness." She only a little girl, though! And most of what I buy consists of books - we all know how important those are.

{Sigh} Life is too complicated. Now I have to end here, because I have to get ready to celebrate the 27th birthday of our firstborn! I also have a little surprise gift for Sarah, and I got these cute Caillou books for Caroline...

1 comment:

Tif said...

Ah, yes. Mother doesn't spend a lot of money on herself. But simplify? No way! The smallest item of paper gets saved, crumpled paper towels that still "have life in them" lie on the kitchen table, and there are enough empty plastic milk jugs in that house to float a raft down the Mississippi river!