The biggest argument my husband and I have every time we move doesn’t have to do with money or curtain rods, where to put the sofa or who’s carrying the heaviest (literal and metaphorical) load. It has to do with our daughter’s giant plastic playhouse.
We didn’t actually purchase this massive pile of BPA, but inherited it from my parents (sorry mom and dad) when they abandoned their acre and a half for a penthouse condo with no outdoor space – my daughter had loved it so much at their house that there was no way we could say no to the offer to have it moved into our backyard. It’s actually quite nice as far as plastic outdoor constructions go, not totally offensive, no neon pink or flashing lights, but ultimately it still is just a big plastic heap, and we are constantly looking for a good (and believable by a three-year-old) excuse to make it disappear. Because we don’t do big plastic heaps in this family. Just out of principal, you know.
Just like we don’t do iPads or television, processed food, light up shoes, refined sugar, kids music, flavored milk, pink clothing, microwaves, plastic toys, or princess anything of any kind. Ever.
If there is anything the gifting season reminds me of, it is the vast difference between the kind of parent that I thought I would be, and the kind of parent that I have become. I thought I would be the kind of mother who taught her children folksongs on the banjo (no, I don’t actually play the banjo), who made clothes and applesauce from scratch, who would nurse for twenty-four months with not one formula supplement ever making it through the front door of my house. I actually believed that my daughter would continue to enjoy organic zucchini puree well into her preschool years.
My daughter hasn’t eaten zucchini in years. Considering she’s not quite four, that means it’s been a really, really long time, and yet she still continues to grow and thrive despite all those boxes of powdered mac and cheese now coursing through her digestive system. I nursed until my third round of mastitis (and my daughter’s sixth tooth) took me out of the game entirely, and amazingly enough my daughter is turning out to be really smart and really well bonded to me. I made applesauce from scratch a few times, but then did a SWOT analysis and realized I could spent three more hours of quality time with my daughter if I just gave in and bought an organic, BPA-lining free jar of it.
I never learned the banjo, though I do take my daughter to kids music class every week.
I feared becoming an apathetic parent always looking for the easy way through those first tough years, so I set my sights on the other extreme. It didn’t take long to figure out that neither of these scenarios could ever actually come to pass in reality. Just like life (after thirty), parenting is best lived on the middle path, not on those precarious outer bounds.
We had another plastic playhouse moment this weekend while planning out the last last-minute gifts for our daughter’s last Christmas as an only child. It seems no matter what we do to dissuade her, little Koukla really, really REALLY wants an electric racecar to ride around in at the park. A big mobile pile of BPA with an extra service of battery acid thrown in for good fun.
We desperately want to say no, but she’s been so practical, so reasonable with all her other Christmas list choices – a new backpack, a new pair of slippers, a new book to read with us at bedtime. Can we really say no to something that could potentially bring her so much joy?
Yes. And no. I may feed my daughter mac and cheese, but she also is learning to how to compost, how to garden, and how to cook for herself. We broke the tv rule at two and a half, but her watching is limited to one parent-approved educational show on either day of the weekend. We stick to our guns on certain things, and find room to give on others. We’ve opted out on the battery powered car that will sputter out and die a slow landfill death just a few months from now, but we’ve opted in on a child powered racer that will go even faster and will last as long as she’s willing to keep pedaling – pedaling in her pink princess light up shoes, that is.
Happy holidays everyone! May your gift giving be free of ethical quandaries, and may your sleigh stay somewhere near that safe and sweet middle of the road.