What do these two discussions have in common?
- This morning my GNHUSA colleague and environmental economics expert Eric Zencey started a Facebook thread about the “mildly depressing” kids’ letters to Santa published in the local paper. Although there was an occasional note that said, “I’ve been good,” the letters mostly read like orders to the factory. The kids wanted stuff, stuff, and more stuff.
- Later, while I was getting my hair cut, my hairdresser Lisa and I chatted about the fact that we are both about to become first time grandmothers. Both of us are going to have granddaughters. Both of us are very happy this. Very. Happy.
So, tying the two threads together, what is one thing grandparents are infamous for, in this country at least? Getting lots of stuff for their grandchildren! Uh-oh. I know from Eric and others that our obsession with stuff is trashing the environment. Furthermore, the Raising Happiness folks say, “Wanting more stuff — and getting it — doesn’t make us happy.”
What are new grandmothers to do?
My friend Andrea, who has two adorable young daughters, raised this question and provided some answers at a recent climate change workshop. She said to the group, “Just try telling your children’s grandparents not to buy anything new for your kids.”
Later I asked her, “Really? Nothing new?” She said, firmly, there are so many children’s clothes out there, there is no need to buy anything new — then, she gave me links to sites that sell very cool upcycled kids’ clothing.
Of course this stuff topic is much bigger than what baby clothes we pick out. It is emotionally complicated, more deserving of a PhD dissertation than a blog.
For now, I want to pose the question: are there loving ways to approach this dilemma? Lisa mentioned that she hates the phrase, “cutting back” — as in, we need to be environmentally conscious, so let’s cut back on gifts this year, okay? Ugh. There must be a better approach.
Here’s my plan: I will try very hard to walk the talk and buy only (or at least, mostly) recycled, re-purposed and upcycled gifts for this baby out of love for my granddaughter. I want love, not deprivation, to frame my decisions about what I give my granddaughter.
And, since I want her to be as happy as possible, I will continue learning more about what makes children genuinely happy. Like Raising Happiness, the Pursuit of Happiness project is overflowing with resources on teaching happiness to children: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/teaching-resources/
What about the rest of you? Parents? Grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles? How do you approach stuff when it comes to the children you love?