The Rockwood Files: Saying “no” to the Gimme Monster

 rockwoodfiles2-205x300By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

There’s a monster in the house. His name is Gimme – as in “Gimme more.” His attempt to take over the children’s minds is frustrating. Less than one month after Santa’s generosity, the Gimme Monster still can’t stop clamoring for more.

But we understand how this ogre works because the Gimme Monster has been around for centuries. He is, in part, hard-wired into the human brain. It’s natural to reach for more. It’s part of what pushes us to invent, explore and improve.

But that natural urge to have more has a dark side, and the Gimme Monster is the spawn of that dark side. This beast has a permanent hall pass at every school in America. Over ham sandwiches in the cafeteria, kids compare toy acquisitions and discuss who has the latest tech gadgets, the coolest new video games and who’s allowed to see R-rated movies. Judging by the after-school reports and requests I hear from our three kids, there’s always a new, cool thing to want that somebody else already has.

I remember being in grade school and feeling jealous of a tall blonde girl in my class who had the kind of wardrobe that could fill several walk-in closets. Her parents were upper class and the girl’s mother made sure her daughter never wore the same outfit to school more than once. She was a walking tween fashion show, and the rest of us mere mortals could only stand by and watch and wish – for more, more, more. (And then we went home and bugged our mothers to buy us new Jordache jeans because “all the other kids have them.” Sorry about that, Mom.)

So a few days ago, after I said “no” once again to a request for a new video game, I explained that even someone as ancient as me understands what it’s like to want more. I wanted more when I was a kid. And I still like and want new things. That part is normal.

But I’ve also learned that constantly fixating on things we don’t have can make us (kids and grown-ups, too) nothing short of miserable. It’s like walking around with an internal hole that never fills up. Because the Gimme Monster lives in that hole and he is insatiable. He won’t monster cartoonever get enough, no matter how often or how much you shove at him. And if you indulge him, he’ll stay around forever – comparing you to the Joneses and pushing you toward that elusive “more” for the rest of your life.

So Tom and I are trying to walk that fine line between giving our kids the fun things and experiences of childhood without feeding the beast who always craves more – who is never happy with “what is” and can only think about “what’s next.”

Sometimes it feels like bouncing between two extremes. On one side, I want to see my kids’ faces light up with the surprise and joy of getting something they like. On the other side, I want them to understand that there are millions of kids in the world who can’t even imagine wanting things like computers, headphones and new apps because they’re busy wishing for food and clean water.

I know our kids already have what they need. And I hope we’re teaching them how to work for and wait for things they want. But most of all, I want them to learn how to beat back the Gimme Monster and feel content in what they have –  and to know what a blessing it is to simply have enough.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Author Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

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Comments

  1. Such a good post! And I totally relate. There is SUCH a fine line with expressing and teaching “wants” and “needs”. Everything you said was right on, I’m sure a lot of us parents try to find that balance. Great article!

  2. Patricia Shifflett says:

    Really enjoyed this article. We have an instant society and children need to learn to wait and understand how much they really do enjoy. This way when they are adults life will not be hopeless.

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