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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Simply Living


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My children were having a debate the other day about whether it is better to be a kid or an adult. The vote was evenly split as my younger ones argued that it was preferential to be a grownup since no one would "tell you what you had to do" and "you could have all the money you wanted" (Really? Where do they get these notions?).

However my older kids, who have had a teeny tiny taste of responsibility, think it is best to remain a child as long as possible. They argued, "You don't want to grow up and be like mom! She has to work to buy the food, cook the food and clean up the food all the time!" But the little ones were not swayed replying, "Yeah, but she likes to do all that!"

Isn't this one of the great ironies of life; always wanting the next phase of life? First, you are a kid who can't wait to grow up. Remember feeling desperate to get your driver's license? Then once you've had that taste of freedom you can't wait to move out on your own. It's not long though before you wish you had someone to share your life with. Then you long to settle down. After settling you dream of starting a family. One minute you can't wait to have kids the next you long for them to move out. Sadly then, one day you realize you are old and you wish you were young again.

Is this just the rhythm of life or an unnecessary string of dissatisfaction? I think if we are not careful we could end up spending our entire lives longing for the next season. Isn't that sad? When will we learn to enjoy the moment we are in?



Yet even I readily remember feeling the same way as my kids do; believing it is best to be older. My parents then, gave me the same advice I give my children now. Which makes me wonder; is it always in our nature to want what we don't have?

I think this is a terrible trap for the mind; to be in a constant state of want. I want a new phone. I want a better paying job. I want more/less kids. I want. I want. I want. (Incidentally my kids recently had a terrible case of the gimmees until we cut out cable television. They are no longer overexposed to advertisements and therefore haven't asked me to buy them anything in weeks! It's a sweet relief!)

There is one problem with always wanting more. When we want more we must work more which means we end up having less time to enjoy the things and people we love. I fear we've forgotten a basic truth; we don't need a lot to be happy. Commercials and advertisers work very hard at sending you the message that you need their phone/soap/makeup/brand to be happy but they are lying to us. If it were true, we'd be happy by now. We've bought the stuff they said would make our lives happier and better and yet we remain dissatisfied. We still want for more.

This is hard for my children to understand. In their lack of life experience they truly believe we would be better off with every product sold on T.V. What I really, really want them to learn though, is that a person can absolutely have a lot of money and possessions but if they always want more they could in fact, be poorer than the person who has little and wants nothing.

I hope that I can teach my kids to be grateful for even the smallest pleasures in life. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they knew firsthand the joy of a nap in a hammock, fishing on a quiet lake, riding so fast down a hill your stomach drops, seeing a falling star, forgetting to check the time and getting lost in a good book? These are the pleasures of living well without costing much.

These are my hopes and dreams for my children but I fear our technologically advanced ways and cultural demands may be too overbearing and contradicting to my ideals. Recently, USA Today reported that one in 20 college graduates won't take a job if the employer won't let them shop online. If that is true I mourn for the next generation.

A happy life is not comprised of a collection of things. A happy life is experienced when you can fall asleep at night feeling safe, loved and satisfied with what you have, not with what you still want. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(This article appears in the Tuesday 5/15/12 edition of the Daily Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

42 comments:

  1. I love this! I was just thinking about this yesterday. I try and be in the moment as much as possible and not start thinking about what to do next.

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    1. Being in the moment is a good practice! I strive for that as well. Thanks for reading my blog today!

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  2. You are right! Happiness isn't a perpetual state of mind. It's a moment in the grass at a beautiful park in spring. It's a shared chocolate cupcake.

    Being content, however, is something we can try to do all the time!

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    1. ooo! Chocolate cupcake! I totally should have included that one! Thanks for reading!

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  3. You are so right. It is a terrible trap to always want the next thing, instead of being present in the beauty of the moment.

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    1. it's so hard to help my kids "get" this though. thanks for stopping by today!

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  4. Lovely Stephanie, it is interesting how little ones perceive adults as being able to have anything.

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  5. I was reading through all your wonderful advice and agreeing with everything you were saying and then I came to the last sentence...and I cracked up! That was always my pat answer when I couldn't come up with a good reason for saying "no" and my kids hated it. But being parents now, (chuckle) they've had to use the same line..and I love it!
    Wonderful blog.

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    1. thanks Karen! it's my signature for my weekly parenting article in our local paper! glad it made you smile!

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  6. I love this. :) I know that is one thing I need to work on my life. I keeping wanting to graduate college and then I'll be happy. I want to be in a house and then I'll be happy. I want to have a career and then I'll be happy. I want to be able to travel and then I'll be happy.

    It's a really hard mindset to get out of.

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    1. it is hard! I know firsthand! I hope you can enjoy the moments your are in, the days you have and yet have hope for the future as well!

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  7. Well I feel SO much better with that last sentence, "Because I'm the mom and I said so, that's why!" Yes the idea of more is insidious in our culture and it frightens me, at times I have it too. And: I was so freaked out by that whole "I won't take the job if you won't let me shop online" thing. What is it all coming to?! (-:

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    1. I was flabbergasted with the USA today article. I'm generally a hopeful person but I really fear for future generations. Which I'm aware makes me sound like an old fogie. O-well. I'll do my best with the minions I've been given and hope for the best.

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  8. Oh such a good lesson to learn and so true. I always assumed I appreciated my life and paid enough gratitude. Then my baby was born sick and the future became so unclear... I realized then its not about what tomorrow will bring, but what you can create today.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Ah! the quickest way to understand that not everything you thought was important is to lose (or come close to losing) something REALLY important. The best lessons are learned the hard way. Sucks doesn't it?

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  9. Omg, I believe that fact about the college graduates! We are raising spoiled, entitled brats! You sound like you are doing a great job!!!

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  10. I could not wait to grow up. I was 12 going on 30. Now that I'm 34, I wish I could go back. Haha! My adult years have been a series of ups and downs, like everyone's are, and I've learned to appreciate every single minute!

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    1. good for you! I fear that's not dawned on me until my 40th birthday.

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  11. Aw sounds like you have a good attitude! I'm sure your kids will catch on...

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    1. thanks Gia! i'd like to have you draw my kids whining about wanting everything when they already have enough and me telling them to be happy w what they got! good luck w yeahwrite!

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  12. I try not to dwell too long in the place of regrets. I can count many of the thing that were great about being a kid and some that sucked as hard as anything in life.

    WG

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    1. regrets are pesky little boogers aren't they? it's not all rainbows being a kid (by any means). thank you though for visiting my blog! good luck w yeahwrite1

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  13. Could not agree more with everything you said!! It's a hard lesson for kids growing up in such a materialistic world! Every night before we eat dinner we say what we are thankful for. I hope that helps. At least it's something
    ...

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    1. expressing gratitude is a great practice! thanks for stopping by my blog today!

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  14. It's funny how you can spend your enter life thinking tomorrow will be better. Sometimes you just have to stop and make today the best it can be. I agree with you that stuff sometimes gets overrated. More won't make you happier. More stuff just means less time to do the things you love.

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    1. I agree about the stopping part. Sometimes I literally have to stop myself or my brain. Ironically it's not until I was forced to have less that I realized this.

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  15. ha, we're totally on the same page here. ;) great piece.

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  16. You are so bang on here! I tell my older daughter (19) all the time...it's not about what you want, or what you have or don't have...it's about what you need to make your way through life...the support of a loving family & good social network, integrity of self & the passion to go for your dreams! The material aspects are nice, but they are the icing, not the cake!!

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  17. my husband (jokingly, i think) says my philosophy is "I want" - which is true more of the time than i would like to admit. i'm hoping not to pass that on to my child!

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  18. Couldn't agree more with all of this. I always thought it was funny how I not only look forward to the next phase of life but also mourn the previous phases of life that I didn't really enjoy while I was in them.

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  19. What a fun question to ask your kids. Totally stealing that for dinner tomorrow night. I don't think it is as hard to be about the good stuff in life as it is to find time to do it. Great post, Erin

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  20. It's absolutely true that youth is wasted on the young. Living simply is such a hard thing for kids to learn. I'm sure yours (and my little guy) will get it some day, but it's just so hard to teach in our culture.

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  21. I definitely hear you on this. I hope my children learn to appreciate what they have and not feel that they deserve it just because they live and breathe. I already see their casual acceptance of the loads of toys they receive from grandparents and friends and from us. When did gifts multiply?

    I also agree that it's sad that people assume they should be able to do personal business at work. Many professions can't - when I taught, friends would ask why I hadn't answered emails all day. Ummmm, because I was WORKING. I'd hope a surgeon, bus driver, waiter, or any other job would do the same. Pffft.

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  22. GREAT and very true message. When I was a child, I couldn't wait to grow up...now, I wish I could grow back down :)

    And so true about always wanting more...and the dangers that come with that.

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  23. Love This!! ... I have been thinking about this a lot lately ... the ups and downs of "stuff" ... and how to teach our children that life isn't about the "stuff" ...

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  24. Feeling safe and loved...that is truly what matters. Well written! Well said! Enjoyed all of it.

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  25. It is a terrible trap for the mind. Wise words. Ellen

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  26. I love that you wrap up this lovely philosphical post with "Because I'm the mom and I said so!" Perfect. Thanks for a good read and an unexpected laugh.

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  27. Another blogger just wrote on this same topic. Being content would be the solution to finding happiness for most people. It is ok to strive for success, but if not having it makes you miserable, yo are not doing it right.

    We should all enjoy where we are while it lasts.

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  28. this is an excellent reminder of what matters in life. Thank you.

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