It’s possible, and not even that hard

By kate on March 7th, 2008

Before I became a parent, we had some strong ideas about what we would and wouldn’t do, especially as it relates to gender and consumerism. However, I always kept an open mind since I didn’t really know what it was like to be a parent. Despite being a bit shocked by the use of Baby Einstein videos by very smart friends of mine, I refrained from passing judgment, because maybe it really WAS necessary to get such a break from time to time. I kept hearing that, with a girl, there was no escaping the flood of pink princessy items, and while I hoped otherwise, I left a little mental room for it to be true just in case.

Well. After having been through the first two years of parenting myself, I am very happy to report that NONE of that is mandatory! And honestly, it’s not that much work, either. It’s totally possible to:

  • Dress your girl in colors other than pink
  • Avoid character-branded merchandise
  • Avoid irritating battery-operated toys
  • Give away any offensive clothing or toys you may get
  • Have a young child who never watches TV or videos
  • Avoid stupid children’s music and play good music for your child instead

I’m very proud of the fact that Ruby has no idea who Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, or the Sesame Street characters are. I’m sure she’ll pick up on them eventually, when she goes to school, but there’s no need for her to know about them now. As nice and cute (and even educational) as they may seem, I never forget that they’re specifically designed to use a kid’s affection to get to their parents’ wallet. Ruby has stuffed friends (a teddy bear, kitten, beluga, and doll are her favorites) who, while mass-produced, are not vanguards of a massive marketing campaign.

The things above were easy. There are other things that we’ve done as parents that were a little more work. Having one parent at home made it possible to do hippie things like use cloth diapers and wipes and make Ruby’s baby food from scratch. The parenting work I’m most proud of, that of helping Ruby become independent and disciplined, takes the most time and effort, but is obviously not impossible.

I do need to acknowledge the importance of having a family that respects our wishes. It’s been so great that my parents and Steve’s parents understand our thoughts about toys and clothes and take the time to find wonderful gifts that don’t cross the line. I think it’s vital that new or expecting parents take the time to express their thoughts up front about what they think is important. We did that by writing the blog posts linked above, as well as through conversation, and I think it helped to make things clear before any gifts were given.

I still take the open-minded approach when it comes to the future. I’m going to try to keep doing things this way as Ruby enters preschool and then elementary school, but I can’t be sure it’ll all go the way I want. All I can say for sure is: have hope, new parents – for at least the first two years, it’s possible!

Filed under: consumerism, parenting
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10 Responses to “It’s possible, and not even that hard”

  1. grant Says:

    Maybe it’s different now, but when I was a kid Sesame Street was just public television. It was as far from rampant consumerism as tv can be! Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Sesame Street (and Mr Rogers). But you’re right, a bit early for Ruby yet.

  2. kate Says:

    You’re right about Sesame Street back in the day. And, as I found out today, it is still a non-profit organization. I guess they’re not as bad as one might think when you see the large range of Sesame Street branded products for sale.

  3. The Blog According to Buzz » Blog Archive » Children’s Music Doesn’t Suck Says:

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  4. Alan Says:

    yeah, it’s not really that hard.. the boys have managed to make it to ages 8 & 10 with only the vaguest concept of most of the garbage that would normally be peddled at them.

    most important things are that the default setting for the television is “off” and that the default response for “i’m bored” is “go read a book” or “go play outside”.

  5. joe Says:

    Just a warning (you already mentioned this), it gets a LOT harder to do what you do when your child is in school and all of their friends have pink Dora EVERYTHING and have Princess birthday parties.

    Combine that with an increased awareness of the world around them (just wait until Ruby can read billboards!). I think Isaac and Aaron’s intake of marketing messages went up exponentially when they started school.

    But you’re the boss of your household, so that’s what it comes down to.

  6. joe Says:

    Even Valentines Day for crying out loud! All the children brought in candy and/or cards, and every single one was a store-bought card with some cartoon character on it and some unhealthy piece of junk attached to it.

    I&A were the only children out of both classes (50 kids total) who brought hand-made cards that took 2 adults and 2 children about an hour to make.

    Sorry, this got me really worked up!

  7. kate Says:

    Oh, I totally hear you on Valentines Day cards! I was always the one with handmade cards in my class (even back then many kids bought them). And I have such great memories of making them through the years! It’s not that hard, as you said, and the kids enjoy it. This year, Ruby and I collaborated on making valentines and it was a blast.

  8. joriel Says:

    I love this! I really agree with this philosophy and I’m definitely going to follow your advice about making our key parenting positions clear to family and friends before our baby’s born.

    I really hope I can make such a positive report in a couple years. I see a lot of my friends struggling. My friend’s two-year-old son never watches TV at home and only goes to daycare once a week for a couple hours but he’s still managed to pick up on Bob and Dora. At the library, he goes straight for Dora’s market-tested face.

  9. Rubin Says:

    You’re doing well. Alas, all your efforts may go up in smoke once your child enters school. There they will spend 14,000 hours in front of proxy parents and there is little you can do to keep your influence prominent. Actually, there is one thing and you’re already doing it right now. Teach your children at home. Sometimes its called home-schooling. But you have the perfect mindset for this. You decide what they learn.

  10. Childrens Music That Doesn’t Suck | DadCAMP Says:

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