Thursday, October 11, 2012

How Much is Enough?

If you are expecting a triathlon or family post we will be returning to those programs next time so feel free to skip over this one if its a little too introspective...( see this is what happens in the off season - too much time on my hands to ponder life's conundrums)

How much is enough?

I have been pondering this question a lot this week.

Living in a capitalist society the answer seems to be that too much is never enough. There is never a time where you get to the stage where you have enough - there is always something newer, better, faster, shinier. ALWAYS.

Cars are a good example.  I drive a 10 year old suburban.  I love my car.  She has taken my family and I on so many adventures, from the mundane trips to soccer practice, to vacations to national parks, cities and towns all over the Pacific NW.  But recently she has become a tad unreliable.  My husband, as a result of being burnt once too many times by auto mechanic bills and in an attempt to be frugal, has taken on the car servicing and repair himself.  I would have to say it has become a bit of a hobby for him.  And that is good.  I want him to have a hobby.  But last weekend my hand brake ( or emergency brake or parking brake...whatever you people call it) broke.  Just snapped clean off.  I moaned about it to my husband and he got right on it.  Ordered the part but it wouldn't be in for a week.  So in the interim he told me he would make a short term fix so I could still use my car and it would not roll away if I parked on a hill.

I got in my car for the first time on Monday after said makeshift repair only to find a bit of rope connected under my steering wheel which I had to apparently pull to release the brake.  That's right.  I had myself a hillbilly handbrake. We laughed about it but in my mind I was thinking...I NEED a new car.

Later that day the boys asked me about getting new Halloween outfits.  I won't lie.  Halloween is my least favorite holiday followed closely by Valentines Day.  It seems that its all about overabundance.  Having not grown up in a country where Halloween is celebrated I find it a pointless exercise.  I know...I sound like a Debbie downer but before you judge me you should know I am a HUGE Christmas fan.  It has religious significance to me and its also a time where family comes first.  For those 2 reasons alone I think Christmas is the bomb.  But Halloween....too much candy ( most of which gets thrown away) and a costume that gets worn for an hour and then discarded.  Seems just wasteful to me.

There have been a number of other things  this week that have highlighted this kind of lavish excess. And I have to tell you my biggest concern is my children.  How do I teach them that by saying no to some of their requests that I am actually doing them a favor.  They certainly don't think so.  They look at others and can't help but compare.  I try to teach them that having "things" won't make them happy, it won't satisfy them because there will always be something better that comes along. They will want to discard the thing they once coveted for the next new thing. My getting them all they want will actually create the desire in them for more.  In the end it won't make them better, kinder people and as a parent that is my job.  To help them be the best person they can be.

Matt and I have always thought that experience trumps possessions.  We have always chosen to take our children places, let them experience new things, new food, meet new people, let them see, feel and taste how other people live, in the hopes that this internal comparison will not only better prepare them to be global citizens ( which they will be thanks to dual citizenship ) but will also help them make decisions about what is important and what they really need to be happy in life.  Recent events have made me aware that life is way too short....and I am certain that no-one lies on their death bed wishing that they had never gotten out and seen the world.  They would have preferred to buy that new car instead. 

So this afternoon I am going to drop my boys at soccer and pick my daughter up from Marching band practice.  And I will be happily driving my 10 year old car with the hillbilly handbrake. Because it occurred to me that all the lessons I want to impart to my children start with me.  I am the example.  Being truly happy with what I have.

Maybe one day my suburban will finally give up and refuse to go on.  And then I guess I will get another car but in the meantime I have enough.

I have an abundance.

Hopefully my children will see that they have too!


  1. I love it when you get all introspective. And if you were realllly listening you would've heard faint little "amens" drifting down to your house as I read this. You also might have been able to hear me lecturing my 13 year old this morning and telling him that I want to block .com sites from our computer because everytime he sits and looks at some "new thing" on a website all he is really doing is cultivating dissatisfaction with what he already has. This is a giant pet peeve of mine and one I wish Ken and I were a little closer together on. One win is that I've got Ken hooked on second hand furniture. Less waste and less money. Baby steps!

    Love hearing your thoughts and I have such pleasure in the thought of you cruising around town with your hillbilly handbrake. ;)

  2. I absolutely adore my ancient Suburban and will be very sad when it dies, which it is trying to do.

    I also strongly dislike halloween and valentines day. In my mind, they are holidays created by companies just to get us to buy stuff. Having said that, I adore candy corns.

    We've been dealing with a lot of these questions in terms of birthdays. We have a lot of them this time of year. Campbell and Elizabeth didn't have parties, other than family celebrations. Ella is having a party though, and in the past we have always asked guests to consider bring a gently used book in lieu of a gift and have then donated the books to the Children's Hospital. But this year Ella is begging to actually get presents from her friends.

    I'm still on the fence. On the one hand, she's never gotten friend presents in the past and has cheerfully made donations. On the other hand, if I break down and let her get gifts, her siblings will want to follow suit.

    Sigh. Who knew birthdays could be so hard.

  3. TOTALLY get this. Though i don't have kids YET, it is something I have often thought about; like you, as an Aussie living on this continent I find Halloween to be a vulgar excuse for eating candy and getting scared (seriously, i do NOT get that aspect, who wants to be scared????). But more importantly, the issue with "things" vs "experiences" - oh so very true, I am very lucky Brett is on the same page as me - he'd probably be most impressed at your hubby's hillbilly handbrake! Anyways, I like this introspective post. Good luck riding out this Halloween :)

  4. Lead by example. That's the only way...yee haa!!!! Hillbilly 'em

  5. Hi Donna. Nice comments. On reflect I guess it's all about priorities and value/worth and how we perceive them. Take for example I had yesterday. I need to buy Daniel and Ellie new beds. I had diligently looked at options and found good quality beds at a good price. Coupled with this our favorite local music shop is going out of business (can't compete with online buying) which is a shame because often we would go down their and the kids could just pick an instrument off the rack and go into the sound proof rooms, hook it up to an amp if necessary and give it a go. You can't do that online. Anyway back to the story. Big discounts for everything at the music store or new bed! Can't do both.. It was an easy decision for Daniel. A new amp, much cheaper than a bed, less than half the price of a bed and he volunteered to pay for some of it. Ellie chose to forgo hers and put the money to us renovating our house, hopefully sooner or later and she got a cheapo acoustic guitar. Then getting home and listening to the 3 of them, including Kathryn playing some songs together was great. sort of supports your point Donna. The real worth are our family experiences.
    From Phil

  6. I am just happy to read a post from you Donna. I have made the mistake of overindulgence when my son was younger, especially being in a developmental profession and my obsession for toys, but then I had to stop myself and teach my child that we don't always get what we want and now I don't buy things for him, but he has been able to acquire cash through various jobs and buys his own stuff. His music related toys are pricey, but he shops around on the internet for the best deal and to strategize for his next purchase. It is so hard to stop their desire for new things, but it has different meaning when they have to buy it for themselves. You are a great mom Donna!

  7. Let's see what lasts longer...your 10 year old Suburban or my 13+ year old Camry! Abby's praying hard it lasts until she's 16. I agree with the sentiment. So hard though to back away from spending when we are so surrounded by it. I've got my girls trained for clearance racks and sales as the only way to shop...but I'm sure there are still steps to take.