The way I figure it I have a mere 358 days left on this earth, give or take a day. This is the year after all, that the Mayans predicted the end of the earth. So while I’m not going to make any resolutions this year, I am going to live this last year of my life differently, because when you know the exact date of your death you suddenly have outstanding clarity.
For my final days, these are my intentions:
- Family first. Full stop.
- Let my kids be kids for just one more year.
- Spend more time with my parents.
- Make sure my friends know I love them.
- Stop and smell the roses. Everyday.
- Be braver with my words. My opinion counts and frankly in a year you’re not going to care anyway.
- Less stuff. I can’t take it with me anyway.
- Spend more time in my kitchen. Food, slow food, is one of life’s great pleasures. I’m not going to waste any of my last meals eating processed garbage.
- Actively seek out joy daily, even when it’s raining.
This manifesto is being blown up and thrown on my office wall as a reminder that if my time is to be short, at least my heart will be full when it’s over.
What if the Mayans are wrong? What if the world doesn’t end? What if they just got tired of writing a calendar that far in to the future? What if I don't really believe the world will end next year? That’s ok. I’ll have had one year of living like it’s my last and I’ll bet it’s my best year ever.
Let’s face it, we all want to give our kids everything we can. But just because we can give our kids the world, does it mean we should? Who amongst us hasn’t dealt with his or her child begging for the next big thing in the store, only to watch them forget they have it the next day? How many moms throw their hands up in disgust when they hear their child say “I have nothing to play with,” knowing full well they have a room full of toys? How do we raise our children to be less materialistic and to be more grateful for what they have?
Consider these tips:
Look in the Mirror
One of the most powerful indicators of whether children will be materialistic or not is by the behaviour their parents model. I admit it, I used to be a Class A consumer, but a combination of a tighter budget, guiltier conscience and wanting less clutter in my house changed my ways. Unfortunately, my children didn’t immediately follow suit. After all, I’d already shown them that it was easy to pick up whatever you wanted.
I needed to show them that there was another way, so I started talking to myself—in front of them—at the store. Not directly to them, but just so they could hear. “Do I need this?” “Do I have something else I can use at home instead?” “I’m going to sleep on this, and if I really want it, I’ll come back and get it," and even “Is this in my budget?” It sounds a little crazy, but it’s starting to work. My children are actually starting to ask themselves the same questions when they see something they want at the store. They also help me answer my own questions sometimes. “Mommy, remember? You do have one of those?” It pays to talk out loud.
Raise your hand if you’ve shouted out “Do you know there are children in Africa that are starving?” at least once! Most moms are guilty of throwing this out but it can be a very abstract notion for children to grasp. Involve them in acts of charity at as early an age as possible. Take them to the toy store to buy a Christmas present for a child their age. Have them pick it out and wrap it. Search for charities that involve children, like Free the Children or Because I am A Girl. Stop and give food or a warm blanket to a homeless person. Bake cookies for the elderly. Have your children save a portion of their allowance/money earned for charity. Have them put the money in an envelope with a note written by them and deliver it personally. Children will get an enormous sense of satisfaction when they get a kind reaction from those they have helped.
If your children want something, make sure they earn it. Either through chores, or by saving their allowance. Don’t give loans or float them. Let them know what it means to patiently save for something they really want
Live it, teach it, mean it. It’s amazing how a little bit of gratitude makes you appreciate what you have. Whenever my children get particularly whiny, I make them go write down as many things as they can think of to be grateful for. I don’t let them get away with puny little lists either, such as I’m happy for my mom and dad and brother and sister. I insist on some soul-searching like, be grateful for the socks you had to put on this morning and the clean underwear. How about that bowl of cereal? And the bus that drove you to school? It’s a great exercise for them to realize that all our “gifts” don’t necessarily come from a store. Gratitude is a learned trait and the funny thing about it is that once you start to look around and be thankful for what you have, you want a whole lot less.
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For many years I worked on the front lines in retail. For those who have never worked retail, let me tell you, it can be a hard job, particularly at Christmas. Christmas is when every single worker behind a cash wants to shout out at least once, “Take this job and shove it!” Why? Well, I recall doing split shifts, where I’d be scheduled 4 hours in the morning and then 4 hours at night. That was fun, splitting your day up like that. Then there were the long hours. Retail is typically not a well-paying job and Christmas is usually the only time of year retailers are willing to pay overtime. When you’re trying desperately to make ends meet, you jump all over it. Then there’s the crazy stock rotation and the stressed out managers trying to meet sales quotas chasing after you to up sell every sale. “Do you need a pair of socks with that sweater?” *gigantic eye roll*
Inevitably, I would spend Christmas day sick in bed after touching every form of germ possible handling money and then, after only one day off, back in at 6 in the morning the next day for a full 12-hour shift of Boxing Day madness. It was a really hard time of year and even with all of the above factors at play, I still enjoyed my job for the most part. There was only one thing that made it unbearable at times and that was the customer. At least once every season (it was often more) I would end up in the stock room doing an ugly cry after being ripped a new one by that one customer that couldn’t hold their tongue. That one customer who would decide to take all their pent up frustrations out on the girl behind the counter. It was a humiliating experience, and completely out of line.
So, at this time of year, I think it’s important to remind people that no matter what, you don’t get to ruin the clerk's day. If you don’t like the policy of the store, it’s doubtful the clerk established it. If the line is long and the store is hot, the clerk didn’t make it so. If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or you had an argument with your spouse, or your kids are behaving poorly, or you’ve overspent, the clerk had nothing to do with it. They do not get to be your personal punching bag.
This week, shopping will hit a fever pitch and it’s good to keep in mind that the people behind the counter have to deal with hundreds of people a day, some not so friendly. They may have woken up on the wrong side of the bed too, they may have possibly had an argument with their spouse, they could have a sick child at home. They probably don’t like the policy they have to enforce to keep their job.
They also want to enjoy their holidays, just like you.
So this holiday season, instead of losing your cool, go out of your way to be nice. Look them in the eye, ask how their day is, crack a corny joke. I’ve stood in those shoes and I can tell you that a little kindness goes a long way. Just a friendly reminder this Christmas, don’t be a jerk to the clerk.