Is it the time of the year for good cheer, spending time with friends and family, remembering loved ones, and all in all having a great time? Or is it instead a time of stressing at work so that we can get things finished in time for the holidays, then worrying during the break just how on earth we will pay for the holiday and expenses?
Let's be real! The festive season is often not as festive as we would like. Who are we fooling if we pretend it's all smiles and joy? In reality suicide rates are higher at this time of year than any other. In the midst of their families people feel their loneliest during this season. Perhaps it's also exacerbated by the media blasting us 24/7 to spend all our hard earned money. If we are strong and don't splash out on gifts we end up feeling guilty about it!
At this time of year there is a tendency to want to sneak away, steal a quiet moment in front of the TV, hoping for a good thriller .... and all that's on offer is a movie about scrooges who aren't enchanted with the festive spirit. They are portrayed as mean and nasty people but in all probability, like us, they have good reasons to feel the way they do.
We over indulge our children with toys and games they don't need. Kids nag us for stuff we disapprove of, but because we are exhausted, we buy them anyway just for a little peace and quiet. We know that kids only want them because their friends have them, and it's cool.
There is no winning! It's not even possible to compete if the kids have been watching shows on TV all year promoting the toys on the shelves. Since when did kids TV shows become really long adverts? I recall each year that my kids list to Santa included their favourite TV shows characters. Their lists included Power Rangers, Street Sharks, Extreme Dinosaurs, Ben 10, Bratz Dolls, Pokemon, Ninja Turtles etc etc etc.
Whoever designed the Bratz doll was simply a marketing genius. No flies on them! Barbie dolls could be dressed in different outfits. A handy mom could sew the outfits herself. But that's where the Bratz company won hands down. Each Bratz Doll is different, it comes with its own outfit, shoes and accessories. So you need to buy a different doll to get a different outfit. There are hundreds of them and I am pretty sure we have most of them. They now sit in a big trunk in our spare room cupboard and my daughter regrets getting older because she is too old to play with them. I'm waiting until their popularity spikes again so I can get a bit of money on my return.
After all this waffle, you may be wondering what the point of my article is. One of the points is that we are encouraged to buy an awful lot over the Festive season. I receive email newsletters from the US and they have just had Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving (I just learned) is called Black Friday, and it’s one of the biggest spending days of the year. In the UK the day after Christmas has the mother of all sales on the high streets. You can pick up what you bought before Christmas at half the price. If you are clever maybe you can take your kids out of circulation, postpone Christmas by a few days until the sales, and save half your money!
I hear some of you muttering under your breath. You probably think it’s a bit two faced of me to have these opinions considering I too have been filling your email inbox with advertising mail 24/7 for the past month. What a predicament we face!
I hate consumerism, and the price we pay for it. If I had a choice I would spend all my time writing parenting articles and books. I would spend the rest of my time "being with" my family instead of struggling to stay in the moment. I really wish it was possible to survive economically without the hassle of consumerism.
The other predicament is that advertisers are also people. They, like you and me, are trying to feed their children and put them through school. A point in case is one of our adverts this week. It was sent because a wife needed to pay the hospital bills for her husband, after he had a heart attack at the beginning of the week.
Some of our readers have strong opinions about the adverts we send out. Some feel there shouldn't be any adverts. The services advertised don't cure whatever behavior their child presents with. They resent the advertising, and email me with the recommendation that I just send them just the newsletters. I wonder at times like these whether they expect The Star, or Fair Lady to remove their adverts too. I also read and I see less and less substance. Not only are the magazines and books becoming boring repetitions of each other, have you actually seen a good movie lately? I have 100 channels to surf through and I cant find a single thing to watch.
I'd like to think that at least the advertising we send from Kids News is useful as it's parent appropriate etc. Well, at least it makes me feel a bit better. My other message is "just because it's out there, it doesn't mean you have to buy it." Buy it if you can afford it and if you think you need it, otherwise don't. Also, just because everyone else looks happy, it doesn't mean they are. If you are struggling don't feel you are on your own. We are all struggling in our own way. I heard yesterday about a friend who is down to her last R100. Another of my friends lives without electricity. It was switched off a year ago and they can't afford the reconnection fee. From the outside this family looks just just like yours or mine, except they return home each evening to darkness.
I hope this family doesn't allow themselves to be defined by their experiences. I hope that they will look back with some pride when they realise they made it through. I hope they realise that it would have been nice to have had all the "stuff" but actually it wasn't essential.
I am being tongue in cheek with many of my remarks and critisms, but I hope that in some way I have managed to communicate my ongoing theme. Children, and families need communication, love, openness, honesty, unconditional regard, being accepted for their individuality, not stuff. Stuff is not what defines you.
I hope you have an amazing weekend, and week ahead. Don't work too
hard and don't forget to spend some chilled time with your family.
Don't rush it.
Below this you will find events in your area. I have only included the people who pay our bills. There is a lot going on, but if you need more info please register on our site and click on the read more. If you don't feel like rushing around it's also ok to stay at home.