Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The "Stuff" Generation

Every generation past had a defining name, "The Baby Boomers" "Generation X", to name the two that come to mind... what about my generation? Who are we? Lately I have felt an appropriate name would be "Generation STUFF."

There is a store here in NoVA called "BuyBuy Baby". Originially upon hearing of it, I thought it was "ByeBye Baby" and possibly the most horrible and morbid name for a baby store. It seemed a more apporpriate name for Planned Parenthood. (Okay, maybe I am a little over dramatic). Then I saw the actual name and am not sure if I am more or less mortified by it. I think it says it all about our generation... where shopping and buying and filling our lives with more "cute little things" seems to be a normal means for fulfillment. I am as guilty as the next guy, I freely admit. I can't seem to walk by the dollar section at Target without scanning the bins for cheap little items Anastasia can't live without.

I recently read a book (well, most of the book) called "BuyBuy Baby" (like the store) which was basically about how major corporations market to babies, toddlers and their parents. About 15 years ago marketing to children under the age of three years old was considered unethical by most major corporations. How the times have changed!!! The entire book discusses the marketing schemes that corporations use in order to sell their products. They often label items as educational that with no scientific proof of any sort to back it. It also discusses how television is the most prime way to market to children via the characters that children come to know and love.

Over the summer I was introduced to two fads of older children and "tweens": Hannah Montana and Webkins. Hannah Montana is actually an overall moral and somewhat intelligent show but has underlying messages that are common to all ages of our generation. Hannah Montana is pretty (like every child role model practically) and is famous. She lives in a mansion in Malibu and has an extensive wardrobe that awes her friends and every girl who watches her show. It all revolves around "stuff" in one form or another. It is cool to have big houses, fame, money and lots of clothes to flaunt. On top of that she has stores full of merchandise that successfully market to her cult-like following of tweens.

I recently registered a webkin that Anastasia recieved for her birthday. You go online, register your animal, get a virtual room for it and lots of webkin dollars. You get more money by playing games, getting a job, doing age-appropriate quizzes or buying more stuffed webkins or accessories. You use the cyber money to purchase furniture, food and toys for your webkin. It is a really awesome concept. I would have loved them as a ten year old! But again, you want and buy more virtual items and fill a pretend house with fake items. It just seems again like having more toys, clothes, things, money, etc is becoming associated with happiness and self worth in our society.

I didn't mean to rant so much, but as a purge my soul throughout the next several weeks, I can't help but note the excess items laying around my house that don't get used or played with. I have just been coming to grips with the fact that we really don't need all the stuff we have to have and we are in fact creating a new generation of stuff-wanters. I want to be a parent who is consistently grateful and content with my lot in life, making the most of everything I have, regardless of how little or much I have and pass that along to my children.

Finally a quote from Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen:

"As parents and grandparents, we think that we are showing children we love them by giving them things. In fact such practice, in and of itself may send them the wrong message. Children may conclude that if people give you things, they love you. If recieving things tells you that you are loved, the next logical step is to measure self-worth by what you have, not by what you are."


Bridget said...

Great post! With 4 kids, we have a RIDICULOUS amount of stuff laying around. I just want to get rid of tons of it. One toy at a time, one toy at a time!

Clare said...

Yeah I know the feeling... with just one spoiled little girl, we have way too many toys... I am trying to come up with a nice way to tell certain family members not to get Anastasia so much STUFF. I would rather people spend time with her... take her to a park or play with her or whatever. That seems more meaningful.