Acquisition

I originally had this post titled Possessions, but I changed it to Acquisition, because I think Possessions is another category I would like to post about a bit later.  Sara and JoVe set the scene with their thoughts from their blog posts:

Sara shares a quote near the beginning of her post on this subject:

From The Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben:

Since we live with relative abandon year-round, it’s no wonder that the abandon of Christmas doesn’t excite us as much as it did a medieval serf.  We are – in nearly every sense of the word – stuffed.  Saturated.  Trying to cram in a little more on December 25 seems kind of pointless.

JoVe replied in her post Christmas blahs:

Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself. It seems pointless. If we need anything, we go and buy it.  And we end up with a pretty loose definition of need.

And if Tigger needs new pyjamas or coloured penciles or sketchbooks, why should she wait another 6 weeks for them just because they would make good presents? The definition of need tightens up considerably at this time of year. Pyjamas she has already because her others were too small.

I’ve mentioned before on-line that I consciously chose in the beginning of my homeschooling journey to try to raise my children “the old-fashioned way”.  This stems a lot from my own childhood (funny how much what we do can often lead back to our early shaping).  We didn’t have much growing up, but what I had I treasured.  I wanted my children to have that same appreciation, and I knew that too much acquisition would hinder that.

It came more easily to do this because we started our family very young (my first was born when I was 21) while we were in university (I supported my hubby through six years to complete his undergraduate degree that included a two-year “live-and-learn” stint).  We had our first three children during his university years while I either provided daycare to children in my home, worked an evening job at a law firm, and/or my hubby did part-time work on campus to make ends meet.  Our goal was to raise our own children giving value to our time to our children as our greatest gift and sacrifice on their behalf.  Being able to afford “things” didn’t come often.  I found that the gifts for birthdays and Christmases were the main source of gift-giving times at that time, so our saturation level, as mentioned in the posts I referenced, wasn’t an issue.

Once we left university and my hubby began his first degree-earned job, I came home and student loans came due, and money was still tight.  Another child was added and simple family togetherness was our center-point.  I remember taking family walks around our neighborhood and walking a couple blocks down to the small town outdoor ice cream shop.  Getting the ice cream cone with the candy faces put on them was the only expense put out to enhance our excursions and build memories.  Friendships were another acquisition sought after during this time period.

For my three oldest, this type of viewpoint was their foundation.  Only my oldest would have consistent figures bought for him (about $3-5) at the time that seemed to be important to him in a “collection” sense.  (I have since found out through the book “A Mind at a Time”, by Mel Levine, that some people have a stronger sense of “insatiability” to objects that can be best supported through collections; my instincts seemed to prove well for him!)  I helped this child know how to hold off on “needing” something through financial self-limitations and the greater understanding of common sensibilities toward balanced acquisition.  For the most part, birthdays and Christmases were the gift giving times.

The exception was the purchases for personal growth items such as the colored pencils and sketchbooks JoVe referred to in her post.  Though finances still kept this in reasonable check, books and paper and craft items were consistently found in our home.  We still were frugal on how these were acquired, however.  My hubby was able to often supply us with paper from the used printer paper from his work that was to be discarded (do you remember the continuous feed paper with hole punched sides?)  Boy, do I remember those boxes of paper my children would go through, and use easily to create books!  We would save everything from cereal boxes to paper tubes to egg cartons to use to build things.  So, imagination and creativity were also a center of our acquisition perspective.

Things shifted when we discovered that three of our children were struggling on the autism spectrum in 1996.  Interestingly, acquisition was not on the radar of these children.  Once I did my research on how to help each of these children develop to their full potential, exposure to all the things they didn’t notice became high on the list in helping them engage in the world around them.  Because objects were the safest things for the younger of the boys to trust, heavy doses of acquisition of things began in order to help them develop the breadth of knowledge of the world of objects.  Instead of creating saturation, for my boys with autism, each purchase was a step on their path of understanding.

So, the first three children were raised with carefully chosen and treasured objects of interest that enhanced the development of their gifts and passions.  The next two children were raised to recognize the value of how objects can be used to develop their gifts and passions.  And then we adopted in two young children into a houseful of prized and respected interest items as well as buckets of various developmental toy objects.  They neither understood how each object was purposefully chosen over time to find their place in the home, nor were they part of the developmental choices of adding each object.  On the other hand, they had their own issues to work through.

As many foster children experience, the older of the two was quite “lost” with the transition of his former home of need into this new home of abundance.  He didn’t have any developmental understanding of playing with toys nor the framework of possessing them.  Destruction of items is common in the early stages of fostering children.  He needed to have all objects removed from his use and recreate the acquisition process in order for him to know how to use and possess each thing.  It was quite an interesting phenomenon.  On the other hand, because he often would receive whole collections of common objects, saturation still often occurred to overwhelm his ability to understand how to possess in a healthy way.  It’s been a process.  All in all, we try to keep acquisition of things to the special occasions in order to help prevent oversaturation as a common theme throughout the year.

In today’s world of abundance, I think it takes a conscious, mindful choice on the part of parents to observe and utilize our instincts to determine what is most useful for each individual child in our care in developing a healthy emotional relationship with the world of objects and acquisition.  Most important is how we help them take ownership by empowering them with their own personal understanding of these things in their own lives as they make their own choices.

3 responses to “Acquisition

  1. Thanks for your contribution to this conversation. Thought provoking as always.

  2. Beautiful, Cindy. As usual, reminding me to look carefully at the situation and the kids while not forgetting general principles.

  3. This sounds an awful lot like our approach to acquisition as well, and why Christmas is still a very special time of year for us here. We take care of our children’s needs when they arise, but meeting their “wants” is reserved for birthdays and Christmas. The main reason is that our budget just does not allow for unnecessary spending on a regular basis. We are not poor by global standards, but we do live paycheck to paycheck and always have. Every dollar is accounted for (sometimes twice!). Spending is very much prioritized and toys are at the bottom of that list behind so many other things. But the other major reason is as you said, we want our children to appreciate the things they have, and to be creative when they don’t have something. They say “necessity is the mother of invention” and although it is often great to have cool, inspirational “things” on hand, I firmly believe that it is sometimes the absence of things that drives creativity.
    Interesting conversation!