From the first time we try to convince our toddlers that the toy INSIDE the cardboard box is, in fact, the real present, we are imposing our value system on them. We tell them what is important, what is interesting, and how they should be spending their time and attention.
And at every turn, despite our best efforts, they defy us.
We spend years carefully crafting homemade dinners, Hallowe’en costumes, and birthday party favours, only to have them rejected in disgust for the “more desirable” store-bought, mass-produced versions.
It can be hard to impress kids, particularly if you’re their parents. Whether you’re trying to show off your awesome swing dance moves, your fabulous cooking skills or your ability to sing all the lyrics to “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” chances are these talents will go unappreciated if you seek the wrong audience. We take them to our favourite places, and they whine “can we go home now?”
Why are kids so hard to impress?
This was illustrated perfectly for my husband and me on Easter weekend. We had a tremendous ice storm, which led to treacherous roads, power outages, downed tree limbs, and the most spectacular, dazzling, ice-covered enchanted wonderland of a city. This only happens once every couple of years or so. My husband and I stood by the windows in delight, fascinated by the glittering trees, and jumped outside with the camera whenever the sun would peek through the clouds. Each twig was encased in crystal.
We dressed up the kids to take them out to the local woodlot. It would have been a truly magical experience, if it hadn’t been thoroughly ruined by a 4-year old who promptly sat down on the sidewalk and cried about an imaginary injury that had paralyzed his legs. (A note to the more caring and sympathetic parents among you: This “injury” has been popping up every time he doesn’t want to do something.) We kept going, enduring constant howls and declarations of injustice. (If anyone can explain how walking in the woods is “unfair,” I’d like to know.) But, we pushed on, “Can’t you see the magic?”
Last weekend, we took them to the Science Centre. The best part of the day for my youngest? The escalator. I kid you not. We could have saved $100 and gone to Sears instead.
And, by the time they’re cynical teenagers, forget it.
The only thing we can really hope is that some of our intentions rub off on them by the time they grow up. And, I do have hope. It would be easy to say that it’s just this generation of children, that they don’t appreciate what they have and only are entertained by screens these days. But, I’m not convinced of that. Here’s why: I remember desperately wanting the plastic store-bought Hallowe’en costume. I remember being dragged on family car trips, bickering with my sister, and, in general, complaining a lot. I remember being entirely unimpressed by a lot of things. Sorry Mom and Dad.
But, I grew up, and somewhere along the way, I grew to understand the value of the homemade dinners and the time in nature, and to develop an appreciation for the beauty of the world.
So, here’s my plan: I will accept that my children have the right to choose what makes them happy, and where they find value in the world. I’m going to stop worrying about impressing them, but I will continue to revel in the beauty of nature, to cook elaborate homemade meals, and to sing the Fresh Prince lyrics with abandon, because these things make ME happy.
Maybe one day, some of the same things will make them happy too.