I fought the urge to laugh and covered my hysteria with a short cough. “Um…no,” I replied as I steered my (smokin’ hot) minivan onto the highway.
“Oh. Well, when I’m ten? Eleven? Twelve? THIRTEEN?”
With each age his eyes grew wider and more horrified. It was like he saw a future of torture before him. And me? I grew more amused. Why the obsession with a cell phone? The child has no one to call…
“Honey, I don’t really know when we will get you your first cell phone, but it won’t be for a long time. Maybe when you turn sixteen and start driving, but before then you just don’t need one.”
“What?! No! But, Mom, all my friends have cell phones and it’s embarassing that I don’t. It’s cool to have a cell phone.”
*sigh* I had no idea that this argument would crop up so early. I thought I had a few more years before I had to answer the all-my-friends-have-something-so-why-can’t-I battle. So I took a deep breath and glanced in the rear view mirror at the child who is just being a child. A normal child who sees and wants and desires and has to reconcile those desires with a wisdom that hasn’t yet developed.
“Well, babe, a cell phone just isn’t necessary at your age. If you need to call anyone, you can use my phone.”
“But what about an iPhone?” he asked. “Can I get one of those?”
“Honey, I don’t even have an iPhone,” I replied with a laugh.
“Well…” the wheels turn, “how about I get an iPod touch? That way I can play games but it’s not really a phone, but I could pretend it was a phone when I’m around my friends.”
Ah, consumerism. You are a wily beast.
“Well, that’s probably not going to happen for awhile, either, babe. I’m sorry.”
His face fell and he looked down at his hands resting in his lap. “Why?” he asked. “I just don’t understand why?”
“Do you know that most of the children I met in Africa don’t have a television? They don’t have iPads, or iPods, or cell phones or Nintendo Ds’s or even computers. They don’t have LEGO’S or a room full of toys to play with or shelves full of books to read.”
Sloan looked up at me with curious eyes. He has always been so sensitive to the plight of the those who are less fortunate. Currently, he has a piggy bank full of money that he hasn’t yet spent because he wants to give it to the poor. Like all of us who are conscious and aware, he wars with the longing to have more stuff, yet simultaneously knows there are people who don’t have enough.
He’s trying to reconcile at eight what most of us never come to grips with as adults.
“The money that we would spend on a cell phone could be used to feed an entire family in Africa for a long time,” I said and he nodded his head.
“Yeah,” he said with a resigned sigh.
I smiled and looked at him again. “I understand how you feel, buddy. There are things I want that I won’t get for a long time either.”
He grinned back at me. “It’s okay,” he said. “I would rather help poor people anyway.”
And that was the end of the cell phone conversation. For now, anyway. I expect it will crop up again sometime and there will be other wants that pop in here and there, but my prayer for him (for all three kids) and for myself is that we’ll always remember.
I don’t want my children to live under a banner of guilt every time they get a new toy or gadget. I myself don’t want to live under that banner. Coming home, I wondered if I’d be frustrated or annoyed with all the “stuff” around me, but really? I’m not. We live differently here. We live in houses and we drive cars and we watch TV and we eat out.
There’s nothing bad about those things. In fact, they are quite good and enjoyable.
But I don’t want to be consumed by them and by God if I’m not going to work hard to make sure my kids aren’t consumed by them either. Rejoice in privileges, don’t take advantage of them. And yeah…it’s okay to remember from time to time the lessons learned in Africa…
How do you protect your children from the monster that is consumerism?