Yesterday, out of nowhere, John asked me, “Would you have married me if I was like, really into video games?” Understanding the degree to which really implied, I thought about it for a solid five seconds. “No. I’m not sure I would have been attracted enough to even date you.”
This answer, though true, surprised me a little, considering I do know several people (adults, mostly men) who are as John put it, like, really into video games, and the truth is, I don’t dislike these people. In fact, there was a time in my life when the group of boys I was not dating were these people. I personally went through a stint in high school where I was somewhat addicted to Sim City and WarCraft (courtesy of my brother) and an even more brief period of dorm-life in college where I played The Sims. But really into video games? Uh. No.
So the other night I was hanging out with some of my non-reading and not-from-church book-club mom friends when the conversation came around to Christmas. One woman in the room has several children of various ages. I came in second with my two children, oldest four. Others are about to experience their first Christmas with a toddler. Naturally, they wanted to know, how long do I have before my child turns into a Santa-worshiping, material-driven millennial who believes that he is the reason for the season, and no one else? And, is there any way to prevent this from happening?
To these two questions I answer: “Not long,” and “No.”
In this situation, rather than over-thinking and worrying, I find myself defaulting to the reality of my childhood and the fact that my own parents never attempted to pro-actively prepare us for Christmas nor detract us from hoarding the JCPenny catalog and dreaming about everything we thought we deserved on Christmas morning (and again two days later, if you were my sister Erica). Yet, as far as I can tell, we all pretty much turned out okay.
Though I can look back now and realize exactly how “rich” my parents were when I was a child, especially compared to my current financial situation, John would back me up when I say I was never spoiled. To the argument, “But you have a big house,” I responded, “We have a big family!” To, “You never wear hand-me-down clothes,” my answer was, “I have an older brother!” And to the unspoken arguments, I might have preemptively answered, “My mom drives a Caravan, my dad drives a Jeep, and I’ve never even been to Disney World.” But ultimately, these are not the reasons I didn’t consider myself rich. I knew we weren’t rich, for one reason, and one reason only:
We were the only people I knew who didn’t own a Nintendo.
Today, as I braved the holiday traffic on Hanes Mall Blvd., I made a command decision about this Christmas and the many that will follow. First, whether we can afford it or not, my children will not be given video games, ever, for any gift-giving occasion, from Mom and Dad. Furthermore, whatever is the electronic rage of the month, my children will be deprived of it. (Cell phones for 6th graders? Are you kidding me? Sorry, Eliott.) Finally, if any large electronic device is purchased, it will always come addressed to the FAMILY and not an individual. Basically, my children will never be allowed to believe anything expensive in the house is exclusively their own.
I realize the video game culture isn’t the sole driver behind our consumer minded Santa-worship in this country. But because it is the most prominent thing I can say my parents actively deprived us of, I’m going with it. We teach what we know. Perhaps taking children down to the mission on Christmas Eve and serving soup works for some families. Perhaps cleaning out toys once a year for less fortunate children (and really driving home the idea that we aren’t just “making room for new toys”) is what some parents find is the key to indoctrinating acts of selflessness into their offspring.
Me? I’m denying my children admittance into selfishness (and popularity, I’m sure) by making sure there is absolutely nothing at our house that might cause them to consider themselves better than others. In fact, I cannot wait until the day I get to say to my oldest, “Well, if everyone in your class has it, use theirs!”
While I like to think that going to church, praying before dinner as a family, and instilling my children with a sense of self that is a reflection of their Creator are all important things, I am convinced that they are not the things that made me the person I am today.
Nope. It was definitely the Nintendo we never owned.