April 25, 2017
Generation after generation, parents have set out to give their kids more than they had. So why do I feel the constant desire to give my kids less?
On the surface, it might sound like a simple case of bad parenting, and I definitely have had (and will have) my share of parenting fails. I think I’ll be able to chalk this one up to a win, though, and I’m sure others feel similarly.
To clarify how this less thing works, think: less busy-ness, less unnecessary technology, less consumerism, less time indoors, less stress…. (I could add “fewer possessions, fewer distractions,” etc., but then I’d have to mess with my “less” theme, so….)
In having less, kids also get more: more free time, more outdoor activities, more bonding with family and friends, more healthful living, more imagination and creativity, more appreciation for life’s basic pleasures, more peace….
Childhood, for me, had some definite highlights. Generally, the simple things were what I treasured most and still remember best: exploring woods and fields and farms with friends, climbing trees, riding bikes, writing, drawing, painting, spending quality time with family and pets.
I can’t help feeling we were onto something in those long-ago days of my youth, you know, back in the 1900s. I like to think of it as hands-on living.
This, then, is what I want for my kids: I want more…of less. I want them to be plugged into their lives, rather than plugged into electronics and disconnected from real living.
How do I hope to achieve this?
(On a wing and a prayer?) The general idea is to stick with a “back to basics“ theme. In terms of specifics, well, I’m still working on those. For now, I’m focusing on the following hopes and goals, some of which are already in the works:
(To simplify, I’ve grouped the details into broad categories.)
The Minimal the Better (<–click for more on minimalism)
Minimalism can involve decluttering life on multiple levels–from physical items to activities/habits that use up time and energy.
*Clear out unnecessary belongings–donate!
*Buy less (e.g. instead of owning massive amounts of clothing, focus on fewer, more versatile items; for people who have young children, point out to them that one or two stuffed animals are easier to love and tote around than a dozen)
*Encourage (aka demand) less screen time–this was so much easier when my kids were little!
*Choose activities more carefully–weed out unnecessary distractions and use free time better (e.g. instead of an expensive indoor activity, go for a walk together at a state/national park. Add a dog, a camera, and/or a picnic lunch and it qualifies as a bona fide event, without too much fuss)
Self-sufficiency can happen as an individual or on a larger scale.
*Individual self-sufficiency–encourage kids to do more for themselves. It may take longer in the beginning, but it will help them gain confidence and skills along the way and, eventually, might free up some time for the adults. (I did say “might.”)
(*Sidenote: I remember standing inside a store years ago, waiting for one of my sons to tie his shoe. I used it as a momentary reprieve–a chance to catch my breath before he was up and active again–but a woman beside me apparently found the whole experience exasperating. “I don’t know how you can do that,” she said to me, as he tried and tried again. “I’d just have to jump in and do it for him.” I smiled at her, still happy with my choice. If I took over for him this time and the next (and the next) how would he ever learn? By the way, I’ve definitely lacked patience as a parent–and as a human, in general–but sometimes I think I got it right.)
*Self-sufficiency on a bigger scale–in desiring to live more independently as a family, it will be important to work in harmony with the natural world. We hope to:
*Grow more of our own food–veggies, herbs, fruits, berries (*Another aside: we’ve already planted two fruit trees in honor of lost loved ones–a Grandma Hon Tree and a Grandy Tree. I think they’d approve, especially when their trees are in bloom.)
*Make more food from scratch–the closer you stay to nature, the better = great rule of thumb, when it comes to food
*Use natural remedies and preventative treatments to help improve our health–including herbs and common lawn weeds (<click to see that post)
*Make our own soaps and other personal products from natural ingredients (such as I’ve demonstrated on my little YouTube channel–* here*)
*Continue with our chicken keeping (love those girls!)
Put ’em to work
*Show kids the value of hard work–not only general yard work, housework, pet care, but also projects–currently, the boys are helping my husband put up a fenced area behind the house for the dogs (YouTube video on that soon to come)
*Add to our DIY lifestyle–this helps ease the strain on our budget, while showing the kids we’re capable of a lot, if we are willing to learn. For example, I started cutting everyone’s hair years ago (bit of a rough start, but I think I’ve got the hang of it. They might beg to differ.) Also, my “To be painted” list has quite a few rooms on it, so I’d like to start teaching the kids how to help me
*Have them brainstorm with us on future projects or current problems–this shows the kids they’re really part of the team, plus they have some great things to contribute
*Encourage creative pursuits (paints, paper, pens, cardboard, wood, hammer, nails, etc.–simple tools can spark all kinds of endeavors)
*Help them help others–from raising money for a child-driven charity, Our Children Making Change, to assisting the runners at Philadelphia’s annual Broad Street Run, to fostering puppies from the rescue where I volunteer (Greenmore Farm Animal Rescue), the kids have experienced how good it feels to offer someone a helping hand
Become a Model
In addition to working with our kids on the activities I’ve mentioned above, parents can think about our own behavior as modeling. Some examples:
*If we want our kids to value long-term achievements over short-term pleasures, we can let them see how we work toward goals and, when met with challenges, how we adapt and persevere
*If we want our kids to be aware of society’s focus on consumerism, materialism, and other “surface” living, we can talk with them about things like need vs. want and how consumer-driven lifestyles can be damaging to us and the environment
*If we’d like kids to understand the value of learning, we can put down our smart phones or tablets and pick up a book, build/repair something, or start another kind of project
(*hint: our kids won’t be the only ones who benefit when we choose well)
Turns out I’ve listed a lot for a post on “less.” Granted, I may have overcomplicated things, but a list like this should only serve as a reference, anyhow. I find that when we set our sights on choosing a “back to basics” life, things begin to fall into place naturally.
I know I’m not the only one who feels less really can be more, so I’d love to hear how others are giving their kids (or themselves) more from less. Do you agree that a simpler life can help nurture healthier bodies, as well as happier hearts and minds?