Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is Disposable

There have been a few times in our Air Force life where I have really started to wonder whether we are doing the right thing.  NOT about our marriage, ha no- not about that.  Marshall and I are like yin and yang, like cake and ice cream, like movies and popcorn.

The problem with our transient life is that "things" have just become disposable, and not necessarily in a good way.  We choose (at this point in life, with a 1 and 4 year old) to buy cheaper things like furniture because they may get ruined in the next few years and we don't want to be upset by that.  In a way this can be a good thing...because really if you place too high of a value on "stuff", you start to care about your "stuff" way too much, and not the things that really matter in life- like people and experiences.

But what does that teach the little people in our life?  It's okay if something stains the tablecloth because we'll just buy another one?  Well, NO!  It's not okay!  I don't want to over-react, but how do we teach a healthy appreciation for the things we have, when we know that the things we have aren't really that important after all?  I don't want to berate Maddox and make her feel ashamed for something that is truly an accident, but then again, how do I make her see that her Daddy works long hours in order to earn the money that buys the nice things that we have?  When I am working, I also use my income to provide nice things for them that they wouldn't otherwise have.  There are so many times when Marshall and I look at each other and say "This is why we can't have nice things!" and it is a joke....but it's not.

We have encountered people over the years who honestly place too much emphasis on the "stuff" of life.  Their base housing is packed from corner to corner with "junk".  Because, in my opinion, if you have it and have moved it, and haven't touched it in over one calendar year- it is junk.  We only get a certain weight allowance of household goods dependent on rank, why waste your HHG weight allowance on something you haven't even touched and your kids don't care about?  Books are a huge weakness for me.  I love them, but they are heavy.  So I now utilize the library more, and only keep books that I want to own because they were particularly good, a gift, or I will want to reference them later.

What about the truly meaningful things that we have acquired over the years?  Something that is passed down from generations or handmade by a family member is certainly more meaningful than something purchased at a flea market.  I have a wooden rocking chair in Maverick's bedroom that I got for free, that I rock him to sleep in every night- and it is from my Great-Grandfather's home in Charlottesville, VA.  I also have a $25 (bought used from craigslist) children's play table in the playroom.  But, how do you distinguish between the two?  The children don't know the history, nor do they care.  It's merely my reaction and treatment of the furniture that provides the difference in how they are regarded.

But even then- it's just furniture.  Even if it is something that my Grandfather rocked in as a baby, if I take it and assume responsibility for it- I'm saying that whatever happens to it, I accept the blame.  So should I pass up the chance to get a family hand-me-down, just because it may get destroyed during life with a military family?  And if it gets broken, is it really that important?    Just because we are a military family, does that mean that we shouldn't be allowed to have anything of value?

With Christmas coming, I start to get bogged down again.  I want to buy every little thing for the kids, because I want them to be happy- and it's hard not to get carried away.  Christmas morning will come this year and they'll be overjoyed with the gifts they receive.  Mdx probably won't have to use "present face" even once.  (hahaha!)  This year I'm taking Mdx shopping to buy a gift for Mav- she's old enough to start learning how to give as well as receive.  I know she's young, and at four years old, it's hard to expect her to understand.  But we can try.

I've started to detach from "things" and started to attach to "people" these last 5 years.  I miss my family and friends, and the best gift of all is time with them.  I want more and more to be surrounded by the people and traditions that bring me comfort, and never once have I ached for a certain chair or table.  (Although that Korean couch was pretty hard!)  That doesn't mean that I won't do my best to preserve historical artifacts, or meaningful items from my past- just that I've genuinely started to recognize their place in the grand scheme of things.  I appreciate and value the past, and things that remind me of it.  However, I know that over the course of my life it will be PEOPLE and not THINGS that bring me the most joy.  I hope I can teach that to my kids.


English Anderson said...

My husband and I have dealt with the same difficulties this past year. This is our first move together since we got married, and we don't have any children, but I still realized that our home was filled with objects and items that I didn't necessarily care about; I just bought them to fill space. We ended up selling practically everything, and moved with our bed, a couch, the tv stand, and some decor. That's it. I feel so much better after shedding so many unneeded "things." I still have a slight compulsion with antique and flea markets, but I'm trying to do better about not filling space with stuff, and using my never ending energy to be a better friend and person instead. Thanks for writing on a topic that I'm sure many military families deal with!


Aunt Kathy said...

This is something all of us who raised or are raising children wrestle with. Like you, my lovely niece, I have a few family items that I love, but I do know they are just things. I think the trick is to teach children to respect their surroundings, regardless of the value. If they spill something, they can help clean it up. If they break something, regardless of value, they can help fix/replace it. These lessons, given with love, will help them more in their lives than any things. Love you and miss you!!