Some months ago, we cancelled our cable subscription because we were concerned about the toll so much television might have on our child’s developing mind, and spent many sleepless nights fretting about the newest study that says television will turn your child into a serial killer.
Just kidding. We did it because we’re cheapity cheapskates. I’m 500% convinced that “Word World” taught my kid to read and I still totally let her binge watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, because that means I get to binge watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Now we just do it on Netflix, which is basically awesomesauce because a) Bollywood, b) we save about 100 bucks a month, and c) our cable company was threatening to take out a restraining order if I called them one more time about the horrible quality of our cable anyway. Fun aside: did you know that most cable companies will allow you two swear words before they hang up on you? Now you do. Choose your f-bombs wisely.
For months, I’ve been enamored of our new situation, comfortable in the knowledge that our only gripe from here on out in regards to Netflix would be where the hell is season two of American Horror Story? And then I asked my kid what she wanted for Christmas this year, and she shrugged.
What. The. What.
The thing about cancelling cable is that you also cancel commercials which is awesome/awful. I must admit that I was getting really tired of the near constant requests for cheaply made animals that look like they’re stoned and have “buddy”, “pet”, or “pal” in their moniker. Ditto on things like “Orbeez”, which are totally guaranteed to not explode all over your carpet and stain it in jewel tones and “Squishy Baff”, which commits the grievous sin of atrocious spelling and requiring a $500.00+ visit from a plumber who will probably make condescending remarks to you regarding your decision to purchase something called Squishy Baff.
Because I totally own the fact that I let my child watch lots of TV, I will also own the fact that she had almost every ditty for every piece of plasticrap that every toymaker was shilling memorized. So much so, that in Christmases past, when my husband and I could no longer procrastinate in regards to buying her presents, we would eventually just go to Walgreens and pick up something that we had heard her mindlessly singing about the day prior.
But now? Nothing.
I asked her again a few days ago, and she offhandedly remarked that she could use some new canvases and perhaps additional socks because hers were getting snug.
Socks. As in, that thing you really hated getting for Christmas because they’re flipping socks . I half expected her to ask me to go halfsies with her on the consulting fee for a brokerage firm so that she can think about diversifying her portfolio.
At one point, I handed her a stack of toy store circulars to look through, and she gave them back, announcing that actually, she had everything that she really needs/wants, except—as a reminder—socks. And while I’ll admit that I felt a surge of sanctimonious glee, you really can’t wrap up your smug feelings to keep the magic of Christmas alive. My Christmases as a child were always very meager, and at times, downright depressing. And while it’s not the toys that make the holidays awesome, when you’re a kid, it kind of is. The fact that I’m able to provide something that I didn’t have when I was little has always made me really happy, and I’m not ready to let go of that yet.
We’re slowly making progress, and I’ve noticed something kind of cool. When she does ask for something, it’s not because some jingle specifically designed to light up her brain in a certain way has clued her in, it’s because she’s actually interested in the thing she’s asking for, and she is making dramatically less gendered decisions as well. She still has a yen for everything emblazoned with Pinkie Pie, but she’d also like a Gross Science Kit and the entire collection of Goosebumps books.
The irony of this particular “problem” is not lost on me. I’m not so oblivious that I’m actually complaining about the fact that my child can recognize how thoroughly her needs are met that she doesn’t whine for more. Obviously, I think that’s pretty bitchin’.
Breaking the cycle of poverty is something of a Catch-22 when it comes to raising kids. On the one hand, we tend to overcompensate by throwing material things at them, and on the other, we wonder if it’s possible for them to truly appreciate those things, never having had a lack of them with which to compare it to. We don’t want to set up a situation where we are causing our kids to needlessly struggle just to teach them a lesson, and yet we worry that they will begin to take the relative cushiness of their situation for granted.
With most awesome things that my kid does, I’m totally bewildered by this. I don’t feel like I did anything, or that I’m particularly responsible for her learning this lesson on her own. Remember, this is coming from the mother who allowed “Word World” to teach her kid to read and “Minecraft” to teach her spatial recognition. I’m not on the shortlist for any kind of mothering award. For now I’ll just chalk it up to the lack of the constant stream of advertising, and be glad that I never have to purchase a pair of Stompeez or a Slushy Magic again.
(Image: Getty Images)