My birthday is coming up later this month. For more than a week, my youngest has been asking me, “daddy, what do you want for your birthday?”
I don’t really want for much. I just bought myself an iPad (we’ll get to that), so really there isn’t much that I want from the kids besides a hug and happy birthday card. But the question got me to thinking. At dinner, both kids kept talking about dolls (American Girl dolls – made in China), Christmas, birthdays, and made me question whether I’m sending them the best, right messages about consumption.
It’s hard – both of my kids still believe in Santa, and I do love the magic that is a child’s imagination that time of year. We could all stand to believe in something unbelievable sometimes.
But it also breaks my heart to see my kids want, want, want material things. It bothered me so much I left the dinner table for a bit to calm my unease. Afterwards, I told the kids what I wanted for my birthday. I told them, “I want you each to come up with an idea that will help make the world a better place.”
Both innately turned to making cookies/having a bake sale. For some reason my eldest thinks bake sales are a great idea to raise money to help causes. The youngest thought of “giving toys”, her sister echoed, “that’s great!”, and I asked, “so we’ll give some of your toys to less fortunate kids”? They looked shocked. No, they meant we’ll buy toys to give to them.
I told the girls, “how about this – for my birthday, I want us to go some period of time… perhaps a month, perhaps 6 months, without buying anything from China?”
The eldest replied, “Then we can’t buy anything.”, youngest immediately said, “Then we can’t go to Target.” I’m not kidding. Those truths. From the mouths of babes.
I don’t necessarily have anything against China. It’s just that I feel that our world has gotten so far out of balance. So much wanton consumption, so much waste, so little conservation or even concern for what we’re doing to ourselves, our planet, or someone half a world away that isn’t making a living wage, shipping disposable products half way around the world at bottom dollar, only to have crap that will wind up thrown away in a year, two, or perhaps even less.
Over the weekend, I received my iPad 2 – shipped directly from China. I keep telling myself “only one more iOS device, this is it”, like a junkie getting a fix, or an overeater/binger snarfing down that ice cream, like it won’t matter if you eat it fast. I also bought a new bicycle for my eldest. Of course, that was made in China too. Because in the home of the Wright brothers, you can’t find a frigging bicycle made in this country anymore.
I’m still trying to figure out what I really want for my birthday, but I really think it’s going to come down to laying out a plan for how my family, if no others, can live in an ever-more-sustainable, and ever-less-wasteful way, with less materialism.