Conspicuous Consumption

Can anyone tell me what happened to the days when kids were happy with a small wading pool in the backyard, or to run through a garden sprinkler on a hot day?

A few weeks ago, I was thinking it would be nice to have a wading pool for those days I don’t feel like schlepping three kids to the swim club, so the girls and I took a trip to Target.

C was SO excited.  We spent a few minutes comparing the different options, and twenty-five dollars later, we came home with “the pink one.” Because evidently if something’s not pink, it isn’t worth having, at least in the eyes of a certain four-year-old little girl who lives in my house.

All the way home, she talked! in! exclamation! points! about all the fun! things! she was going to do in her new pool.  And she asked me eleventy-jillion times if we could set it up as soon as we got home.

Thanks to the kindness of a neighbor, within an hour of arriving home, the pool was inflated and full of water, and two little girls were “swimming”.  When their big brother got home from school, he and the neighborhood kids joined in the fun.  Isn’t it great when simple things provide so much entertainment?

The next day was Saturday, and we went out for breakfast.  On our way home, all the kids could talk about was getting into their pool.  Husband and I were thrilled with this plan because we knew we would be spending all afternoon working in the yard, and the pool would keep the children both occupied and safe from heatstroke.

Well.  We pulled into our driveway to find that our neighbors had just purchased this, making them the sixth family in our neighborhood and the third on our block to own one of these monstrosities.

D and C immediately started begging to go play on the waterslide, the excitement and anticipation of swimming in their measly little wading pool long forgotten.  And really, who can blame them?  I mean, who would choose to play in this if you could play in THIS?

Have you SEEN one of these water slides in real life?  They are out of control.  Now, don’t get me wrong; the waterslides ARE fun.  And when they set them up, my neighbors are all very generous about making them open to anyone who wants to play.  My issue isn’t about jealousy or the neighbors “one-upping” me or anything of the sort.

My issue is with how everything keeps getting bigger and better all the time, thus breeding the discontent and sense of entitlement that is so prevalent in our society today.  It’s like this in every sphere of our lives.  The waterslide is just a small example.

As soon as we purchase something, “they” come out with a newer and better model, and on and on the cycle goes.  It is becoming harder and harder to find satisfaction in the simple things in life.

I want to be content with what I have.  I want my children to be content with what they have.  We have so much.  It seems like we Americans are inundated with stuff.  And the more we get, the more we want.  I know I do.

So how can we learn to enjoy the things we have without coveting the next bigger, better, newer thing?

And how can we instill that contentment and a spirit of thankfulness in the hearts of our children?

The kids were perfectly happy in our little $25 wading pool.  So why do we feel the need to go out and buy a $400 waterslide?

Well, not we.  We won’t be getting a waterslide anytime soon.

I mean, why should we when we have three neighbors who are perfectly willing to share?  You can bet that we’re not going to be declining the invitation.

But really, the kids would have been just as happy with a sprinkler.

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14 Responses

  1. My kids still like to play in the sprinklers and we belong to a swim club. I think it’s up to the parents to instill a sense of having just enough and not too much. My son has been BEGGING for an xbox/wii/playstation/anything for years, and we won’t let him because he doesn’t need it. However, I agree with Christie’s PS! It does look like fun!

  2. That is just so true. I look at my own parents – when they were kids – and how little they actually had, or needed. My own kids are caught up in it – they think they need to have something new every time we go to the store. I sometimes say no just for that very reason – because they don’t need so much STUFF.

    P.S. That waterslide does look awesome, though!

  3. Oh my! I can understand the awe of your kiddos over your neighbor’s personal water park–very cool–and very nice of them to invite friends to share, but my goodness! I agree that our society is over the top on many things, you know, “You want to Super Size that?” and children are exposed to this all the time. I agree it’s up to the parents to set realistic boundaries and control themselves too. Great thoughts!

  4. You are, in my opinion, absolutely correct, dcrmom. What is with us and the needing more and bigger and not being happy with what we’ve got? It is an epidemic and I do it, too. Although when I was little I would have been horrified of that slide.

    And could you please high-five Caroline on the “if it’s not pink it’s not worth it” credo? That’s my girl, there.

  5. I SO agree with you about this. We have a pool like yours. And thankfully, if any of our neighbors have a banzai slide, it’s safely hidden in their backyards.

    Not sure what what we can do, though, other than remind our kids often that what we have is fine, and just because something exists, doesn’t mean we have to own it.

  6. Wow, I’m impressed you were even able to find the $25 one. We looked earlier this week and I must have spent 20 minutes looking at all the pool and water toy displays before I found one. There was every size you can imagine from $49 and up as long as you wanted a pool big enough that it needed a filter. The simple wading pools without a filter? There were 2. An infant one and a little bigger one. They were in the middle of an aisle full of blow up toys, away from the swimming pools. *sigh*

    We were seriously tempted to buy the $399 slide but decided not to for the reasons you mentioned. I think the temptation was there because I wanted to give the kids the toys that my family could never afford growing up. Families have SO MUCH disposable income now compared to when we were young. Although I take pride in how inventive I became, there still is a certain emptiness at missing out. For example, my parents couldn’t afford a Slip & Slide so we made our own out of cut-open garbage bags and duct tape. Except they wouldn’t stay put and ripped easily. A neighbor up the street had one but they would only let a certain number of kids at a time on it. So, I sat and watched most of the time. You can bet my kids had a slip and slide as soon as they were old enough.:) Still, I think there is a point where you have to draw the line. $400 can buy a pool membership for the kids at the local aquatic center. I don’t know how it is where you are but around here most of the pools have waterslides.

  7. what’s even scarier is all the bad reviews of the expensive slide (in the sense of i cannot believe people would still buy this thing!)

  8. I am right there with you on the whole contentment and enjoying the simple things in life. Sometimes it makes me want to keep my kids in a bubble but that would drive me to insanity 🙂

  9. $400?!?!?!? We could join the Y for the whole summer for that!

    Amen to all of what you said. We have a sprinkler. And a teeny-tiny pool. That’s it! But Ellie’s friend from school has a moon bounce, pool, swing set, etc. It would be nice to be the “fun” house that kids want to play at.

  10. Fortutately, our neighbors only rented one for a birthday party that we were invited to. (And we got ourselves a blow-up pool that same week, which so far everyone is happy with.) I gotta say, at least there are not rubber burns on your arms after the wading pool!

  11. We battle against this type of unbridled consumerism constantly -even if you turn off the TV, it’s impossible to completely avoid it. But you inspired me to pull the sprinkler out today.

  12. People need very little to be happy. Look to the world around you, in places like India people live on as little as $1 a day. And yet, most of even these unfortunate souls are happy. Why? because pleasure and happiness is not tied to possessions. Beyond the things we absolutely need (shelter, food, clothing) people’s happiness relative to their possessions begins to decline. In economics this is called marginal utility. 1 burger, GREAT!, 2 burgers, good, 3 burgers…maybe not.

    What consumerism does is short circuit people’s reason, to convince them that bigger is really better, that more expensive = greater happiness. The problem with this? its simply not true.

    What would you rather have, a $400 slide or a week off from work to spend with family? the choice is always there.

  13. OH goodness gracious. You have spoken such true words in this post.

    You’ve really found the heart of the problem that has been bothering me lately, like a vague tummy ache.

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