Stick Forts and Survival Stories: Locating their worth

In the building of the many forts, I hope my children are learning that you don’t need all the stuff that society and consumerism does and will continue to tell them they need: electronics, devices, a bazillion friends, stuff to do the work for you. I want them to learn to use what is at hand. Think of and create solutions rather than buying solutions. Make do. Be content once in a while rather than always wanting, wanting more stuff. Determine their own needs and wants, don’t let marketers determine for you, because they will. They will happily inform you your entire life of what you need.

I consider one of my main jobs as a parent is to teach my children to ignore advertising: on tv (glad for Netflix), on the radio (turn the station), in the mail (straight into the recycling bin), in magazines (flip on past), online, on billboards, on Kindles, on clothing. Everywhere. Ignore that shit. In high school, I took a mass media class because it was offered by one of my favorite teachers. This class, so valuable, taught me how advertising works, how it pulls at emotions and convinces you you’re not good enough unless you have their product, tells you what you need and what will happen if you don’t buy their product. Alex and Amy are learning to sort through and identify what they need, what is important to them, what they want and what they can let go of: squinkies, planet inflatables, etc. Advertising sells happiness: you’ll only be happy if you buy our product and everyone is, especially beautiful people. You too will be beautiful if you buy what they’re selling. I want my kids to locate their worth within, by who they are and how they interact with people. Do not let marketing or consumer culture or groups of other people determine your worth, because I guarantee that society, marketing, advertising will always tell you you’re not enough. Will always tell you that you don’t have enough. You need this and this and that, in at least two colors. This is the pervasive message in our culture.

I have not been immune to this message, but I am decidedly less influenced by cultural norms than seems the norm. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect all the time I spent outdoors as a kid (which was still a fraction of the time my parents likely spent outside as kids) had a protective effect on me. As a stay-at-home mom, as a writer and editor, as an artist, my worthiness as calculated in dollars by insurance companies and society in general is low. Add to that the fact of a depression diagnosis and my $ value nearly bottoms out. I’m not fishing for reassurance though years ago I would have been. I am immensely lucky that I have learned to identify my worth. I am immensely lucky to be surrounded by a husband and children and other family and friends who know my worth. The devaluing of creating a home, raising children, and learning a craft is so ingrained and ubiquitous in our current society that there were many times I found it difficult to stay the course. But when that happened, when I was ready to just find paying work outside my home, I checked in with myself. What did I need? What did I think? How did I want to live my life? How did I want to raise my children? In answering those questions, I would return, renewed, to my non-paying work of raising my children, maintaining a home, volunteering in my community and writing.