We are so blessed where we live. We have space for the kids to run. Our house has nice closets. I've lived in places with very few closets, and I think closet space is wonderful.
Being blessed with space and closets, and the kids having their own space to put their toys comes with its own set of problems. Knut and I talk a lot about living intentionally. This is not to be confused with living legalistically. For instance, we watch very, very little t.v. Knut hasn't played video games in...I don't know...years.
It's not that these pieces of technology are sinful, it's that we found them consuming so much of our time and we were constantly complaining to each other that we never had time to do stuff that we wanted to do. So we jointly came to the point where we realized we didn't want to spend our lives watching movies and playing games. We each had goals and interests. We wanted a life that this stuff was keeping us from. So we stopped using that stuff.
Did you ever notice that kids normally do better with less toys rather than more? Our house is like a toy vacuum, and TWICE a year I go through all the toys with the attempt to get rid of half. Half. I usually end up keeping the same type of toys (the wooden train set) and getting rid of the same type of stuff (McDonald's Happy Meal toys, etc.).
This last week I went through the kids' books. I haven't done that in years, but they haven't all fit on the shelves for at least a year. It's really tricky to teach them to pick up their books when they don't all fit on the shelves. So I got rid of all the ones that annoy the grown-ups (pretty much all the Disney/commercial ones. Again...nothing against Disney or My Little Pony, but when I'm going through books to decide which ones I'm keeping, The Velveteen Rabbit wins over something shallow.)
I also got rid of all the books that were drawn in, torn, or pretty much falling apart. Our bookshelves now have a bit of space to spare. Now when Knut eventually gets to building bookshelves in the den for school books, we can actually put next year's school books there.
It doesn't help that the kids are always wanting stuff, and they see their friends having stuff we don't get for them. For instance, we have an xbox that I'm sure is very outdated from when we were first married and the kids don't play with it. We don't have a Wii, or PS4 (I have no idea what number they're on even). This is by choice.
It's not a legalistic issue, it's a intentional issue. We've decided what kind of childhood we want our kids to have. We want to hold back on the technological play, and rev up the hands on, imaginative, outside, make believe, forts-out-of-couch-cushions play. We believe that when our kids are mature and developed enough to handle technology they'll be able to figure it out. Silje now does some research on the computer on topics that interest her. She's started reading this blog too.
When they go to friends' houses, we let them play video games. We sometimes have family movie night and we all watch something together on the couch with popcorn. Like I said, we don't want our decision to limit technology and toys in our house to be any resemblance of legalism. I have no intention of teaching that.
I guess what I'm venting here is not my hatred of technology, or any sort of judgment on those who give their kids a cell phone and a DS (whatever that is) at age 6. What I am venting is how choosing a simple childhood for our kids is such an uphill battle!
It's really frustrating that even though we homeschool, our kids don't watch much t.v. and they go to the store maybe once a week, but more often every other week...they still are consumed with stuff.
I wish that when they ask for stuff I could say "we don't have room for that" or "that's too expensive." I have no excuses besides "I don't want you to have that. I want you to have something better. There are better ways for us to use our money and our time and more than anything I want you to know that."
Because if we had some excuse, I'd use it. Telling my kids this is a choice just feels mean. They know that the only thing between them and junk is our will and determination.
I don't want my kids to be limited to spending their days mastering a level of video games. I don't want them to see the world only through the eyes of Hollywood. I want them reading about Michelangelo, and performing a play through the means of a flashlight and shadow puppets. I want them to read library books about bumble bees, and not learn about the world through Calliou. The tough part is the kids won't choose it themselves. If you put vegis and cake in front of them, most kids (though I'm sure not all) will choose the cake.
Finding that balance might be the hardest. It would be so much easier if we made it legalistic and said "this is bad and we're not going to do it." It would be easier to make the kids feel superior because they don't lower themselves to watching television. It would be easier to label technology sinful and wrong. That would be lying, though. Technology is neutral. It's how we use it that is good or bad. It's how we manage ourselves and our time that is good or bad.
I believe it will be worth it, though. The simple life doesn't come easy. It's hard. That's another message I want my kids to learn: do hard things.
I sometimes hear "you can't protect them forever" and "you don't want to shelter them." I saw a tote bag the other day that said "Why yes, I am sheltering them. Are you going to accuse me of feeding and clothing them next?" I don't intend to control their lives forever, but neither am I loony enough to believe that they are mature enough to make some of these choices for themselves. We will explain the "why" behind our choices. Probably thousands of times. We'll let them make some mistakes, because sometimes that's how we learn.
I know that some people roll their eyes at homeschooling, or having few toys, or constantly giving kids healthy snacks and not letting them "experience" junk food as much as their peers. Hollywood says that parents should edit what their kids watch, not them. Then when parents do edit, they're controlling, sheltering, oblivious and too idealistic. Our kids play by themselves outside for big lengths of time, and we choose that over gymnastics 3 times a week in a structured class, yet we are the controlling ones.
I hear comments muttered from both media and friends that we are depriving them. I even heard on the radio the other day that people homeschool so that they can indoctrinate their children in one set religion and the government should put a stop to that. It's un-American. (Serves me right for listening to Ed Schultz). It wasn't enough to say you couldn't talk about God in schools. There are some out there who say we shouldn't be teaching it at home either. It should be something that they learn...if they decide. Religion doesn't bother liberals unless it's practiced. Sorry...I'll stop that tangent before I get all political again.
If parents don't show kids how to live, I mean really live, and not just go with the flow then who is?
It's hard, because parenting today is an uphill battle. Finding that balance, having nothing holding you but but sheer will sometimes when your kids, the media, and the culture and sometimes yourself doubts your sanity. The simple life is a battle sometimes. Sometimes it's hard to know which battles need to be fought and which ones left alone.
We'll continue to do hard stuff over here. I'm not sure right now what will come of it. We'll wait right along with you for the next 18 years or so to see if what we're doing works or not.