Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the great Christmas debate

We live, of course, in a consumption-driven society. Getting, wanting and spending are the drivers of our lives. We live between the poles of want and need, and there are even whole sections of kindergarten curricula dedicated to discussing the difference between desires and necessities. But there is no other time of the year when it seems to become as crucial to consider the want vs. need question than at Christmas time.

Banana and I talked the other day about what she was going to ask for from Santa. The list was short, only three items. At the top of the list was an iPod. At the bottom of the list was a complete Littlest Pet Shop set. Believe it or not, I'm okay with the iPod. Shuffles are $49—not inexpensive, but also not bank-busting. When it came to the Littlest Pet Shop, however, I suggested that she probably shouldn't ask Santa for it. Since the summer we've been periodically purging toys, and several Littlest Pet Shop items have been purged. She said she'd play with the complete set, and with all the self-assurance that six-year-olds possess, she told me that the complete set was very different from the other stuff. I persisted a bit longer in part because while none of these things are needs, I am acutely aware that I want to spend money on things that will be used and would much rather spend the same amount on something that she will use for the foreseeable future rather than a few months. (The Polly Pocket racing set from last Christmas is a prime example here; friends play with it more than she does.)

So that brings us to the boots. Does Banana need $60 boots from Hanna Andersson? Probably not. But there are two reasons I will splurge. First, compared to the Circo boots at Target or similarly disposable items for a third of the price, I'd rather spend more on something that won't look worn out in two weeks. I also see a value in teaching her to look for higher quality items that last longer rather than seeing inexpensive as better. Second, I realized recently that Banana is seriously lacking in little girl clothes. She's been wearing more jeans this fall, but when she gets the chance to "girl up" she does. And I realized that her dearth of more-stylish clothing is a direct product of my pragmatism. Just as I'd rather spend more on a few better-quality items, I also tend to spend money on clothing that is more "practical."

The thing is, a little girl should be able to look like a little girl — even if she lives with daddy rather than with both parents. So these boots and the faux shearling coat she'll be getting from Grandma? They're also an effort to remind myself that life isn't all about jeans, sneakers, and fleece jackets.