We took Lucy to see Mary Poppins on Broadway yesterday. The show itself was quite a spectacle, although both C and I were a bit disappointed that the nuances of the movie were pretty well erased (no woman’s suffrage so comments made about what women could do were taken out of historical context as well as a softening of the ultra-greed aspect of the bank.) Plus, there was this uber-creepy toy kangaroo court deal that was just oogy. The costuming and sets were amazing though, and talented actors, blah blah blah. I’m not a huge musical sort of girl, at least not the newer ones.
Before, during intermission, and after the show we were bombarded by the merchandise. The theater kindly provided people with boxes-full of programs, cds, t-shirts to patrol the aisles before the show and during. Stands were set up conveniently near snack and bathroom passages. The audience was full of people clutching parrothead umbrellas and Mary Poppins Barbie-sized dolls. And so we were hit by an attack of the ‘I Wants.’ And by we, I mean Lucy.
Never mind the completely outrageous price of our seats and of merchandise at these sorts of things, we weren’t even through the show yet. Now, lest I seem like some sort of ogre, I do remember the joy of going to a show and coming home with a t-shirt or some other bauble. I am a huge fan of the souvenir, as is my husband. We both grew up in families for whom memories of the show (and Playbills) *were* the souvenirs and we were lucky to hold on to ticket stubs. What neither of us are big fans of is being hounded for stuff. And it seems that we have reached the being hounded stage.
We explained. We asked for the ‘asking for’ to cease. And once we got out of the theater and were on our way, we thought we had made our point. And then, as I used the bathroom at Port Authority on our way to the subway, the ‘I Wants’ struck again. By this point, it’s not a souvenir she’s asking for, or even something specific. She’s simply asking for more stuff. In this case, a book. A book, of which she has received 6 in the past two days–three from me and three from her grandmother. We haven’t even read those yet. Ok, no.
On the way home we had a long talk about how it makes people feel when they take you out to do something fun and all you do is ask them to buy you things. We talked about people who think that they need new things to make them happy. We talked about how important it is to me and her daddy that she appreciates the things she has instead of always feeling like she needs more. And we gave her a choice: she could choose 3 toys to give up (one for each new toy she had asked for after being spoken to) or she could choose to give up 3 outings we have planned for this week. Cue tears. For the entire rest of the ride home.
When we got back and she had calmed down, we all went into her room. Her chin began to quiver and she began to tear up and said, ‘I don’t want to give up my clothespin dolls book.’ Aha. C explained that we weren’t asking her to give up her 3 favorite toys, and I asked her whether 3 toys was a lot compared to how many she had. For the first time in a long time, I saw her look around her room and really register how many things she has in there. ‘No, not a lot,’ she said. I asked her if she thought she could even count how many toys she had in her room, and she said, with wide eyes, ‘No, mommy, I wouldn’t be able to remember what number I was on.’ And so we asked her again if she would rather give up 3 toys or the 3 trips, and this time there was no hesitation. Three toys it was.
We didn’t take anything away, although I am going to sit down with her before long and sort through what she’s playing with and what she isn’t because she has a crapload of stuff, even in the face of a new baby to go through the younger stuff again. And we may end up going through this again over the course of the week when we go the museum and zoo, two places with gift stores we all love. But I really hope it can stick with her, the idea that doing things together is more important than buying stuff because I really don’t want her to grow up into a person who thinks she needs stuff to be happy. Stuff is nice, and stuff is necessary, but it never made anyone happy.
This segues nicely into Venessa’s latest about Not Shopping. I’m certainly guilty of buying things I don’t need, or thinking I need things which I really don’t. Coming on the heels of my rather defiant and not convincing last entry, it’s something I really need to think about. Consumer spending is my Achilles heel. Sometimes I am going to have to buy things, and buying dressers from Ikea allows me to buy my diapering supplies from The Stork Wearhouse . Is it the right trade-off? Who knows. I’m starting to shy away from using the word ‘right’ when it comes to the choices I make for the environment. it is true, however, as Venessa says that revolutions don’t have to be loud. In fact, most of the time the best way to make your point is to just not buy something. It doesn’t matter if Wal-Mart notices that you’ve not spent half your paycheck there. It does matter if your kids notice, if your neighbors notice, your friends and family notice. Maybe they’ll ask why, or maybe they’ll think you’re crazy but either way, it sticks somewhere in the back of the mind.
As an aside: since starting the Riot for Austerity, I have had a fair amount of people ask me about what we’re doing and why. Truth be told the response has been more positive than I expected. I expected to have to defend myself and the project more than I have. I expected to have people point out flaws in what we’re doing and to spend great lengths of time explaining why it wouldn’t make a difference or why it was too hard, or worse of all, be accused of letting the project be more important than ‘living comfortably.’ Don’t get me wrong, we’ve fielded comments about how much easier it is for me because I don’t work, and I’ve even been told that I needed to make sure I didn’t jeopardize my health by not turning on the a/c (like I would ever allow myself to fall ill to prove a point.) But for the most part, the past two months have been a pleasant surprise.
This is why I have decided that I am going to continue tracking my spending after all. And I’m going to count the armoire even though it’s a gift because it’s not an entirely unsolicited gift. It’s hardly fair to cut out a category simply because I’m uncomfortable with the amount of money I spend, and the fact is, I keep finding myself wanting to write about how almost all of our furniture is used and we never buy high ticket items, which means that I need to own this purchase, so to speak. Do I think spending money on one item that will last for years is better than spending the same amount on clothes and shoes from Wal-Mart or a big screen tv? Absolutely. Is it without its own impact? Definitely not.
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