Feb 9, 2010

Defining treats

While Galen starts his 45-minute piano lessons, Zekiah expects and deserves something special with whichever parent is driving. It's precious alone time with our youngest - something he doesn't get near enough of. What to do, what to do?

I see alot of parents having beautiful "dates" with one child at local coffee shops. I watch with some envy as they sip their drinks (including the famous "child latte") and share some grown-up time together. Now finally it's my chance.

But then I wonder if the same intimacy and connection and sense of special-somethingness can be created without putting out $10, without reinforcing that message that "treat" means spending. When I lived in a small rural village in Tanzania for 3 years, I discovered how well society had trained me that a special day or feeling or celebration had to involve buying something. In a town that had nothing to buy, I had to learn to find different ways to celebrate, to express happiness. Could I share that awareness right now with my children, instead of propagating our consumer culture?

So instead of offering a cookie at the Community Farm Store, I give the choice of samosas (which he does like) or the playground, both within walking distance of the piano lesson. Secretly, I'm hoping he'll choose the Indian fast food (they also sell pizza and banana bread, but I don't tell him that).

You already know the answer, of course. Whenever I think I'm teaching them something, I'm reminded that the kids already know, they're just waiting for us to catch up to their innate wisdom. We discover the uninspired playground encircled by suburban cul-de-sacs, and his first words are an enthusiastic, "There's so much to do, I don't know what to do first!" We spend 30 minutes laughing, hiding, pushing, swinging, whooping, just out and out playing and enjoying the air and the sunset and being together.

Whenever I feel guilty about Galen's complaint that "You never take us anywhere" - ie, the pool, skiing, IMAX - I try to remember that I do give them plenty of special outings, together times and experiences. Walking or cycling to school every day. Feeding the cows together. Raking leaves, fixing bikes, planting pumpkins. These are the memories I hope they'll look back on as the "what my childhood was like" defining moments. These are what I hope they'll come to think of as treats.

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