I suspect this post will not make me popular or be received with open arms. When I first started this blog, the idea of sharing my candid thoughts was an exciting and freeing thought. They say you should blog like no one is reading it. Two+ years later, the reality is that I still have to filter myself because people do read it and some things are better left unsaid. I started this entry over a week ago. I have read it and re-read it. This morning my daughter missed her highly valuable speech session because she threw a tantrum over a "thing" that I made her leave in the car. This blog is long overdue and is going to be a bit different so hold on...
As you know we have been struggling with Ella's behavior for quite some time now and continue to try various tactics to get it under control. The uphill battles are so numerous it feels like we are climbing a mountain and the longer the issues continue, the more creative the solutions we drum up become. In a recent post I mentioned we have; changed her diet to eliminate excessive sugar intake; been diligent about getting to bed on time; purchased teething jewelry to keep her mouth occupied; let her chew gum to help her focus; and purchased a potty watch and training undies. In addition we have tried almost EVERY parenting tactic known to man; punishment, reward, ignoring it, talking it out, praising her, etc. Despite all of our efforts, NONE of it has successfully crossed a single issue off the list.
When we decided to change her diet I worried it was going to be really hard on our lifestyle but it turned out to be a pretty smooth transition. Our newest idea though will most definitely be the most challenging - and not on our end. This is where my popularity diminishes..
This new change might be a bit hard on Ella at first, but the truth is - the grandparents will have the toughest time adjusting. I have felt this way for a very long time, but after a lot of research we plan to focus on Ella living a minimal lifestyle.
In our research process this article aligned with the things I have been saying all along, but did nothing about because I felt like I couldn't get the message across and it was easier to continue as-is. Growing up my brother and I didn't have a lot of "things." Did we have toys? Absolutely, but it wasn't to an excessive degree and what we did have-we played with. Otherwise we were outside; riding our bikes, catching night crawlers, exploring nature, making up games. It sounds ridiculous at the ripe old age of 29 to be reminiscing about the "good ole days," but it's true-it was a simpler time.
Ella has SOOO many toys that it not only lowers her quality of life, but mine too. Seem dramatic? I spend at least two hours every single day picking up her things that have been scattered throughout every room in our house. That's 13,140 hours over her lifetime that I could and should be spending with her. Yes, I like a tidy house, but this has become more about safety these days. If I didn't pick it all up we wouldn't be able to get around without the risk of tripping on something. I can't tell you how many times she has been hurt already and I say, "that's why it's important to pick up our things!"
Not only has she collected a million "things," she is also very possessive of them and not in the way of sharing (yet). Even if she never plays with the item she has to know where it is at all times making it another full-time job for me to keep it all organized and accessible upon command. We spend 10-15 minutes every morning helping her find and gather at least ten different items that have to accompany her on the five minute car ride. As you can imagine long road trips require even more preparation.
We joke about her undiagnosed ADD but she moves like a tornado from one activity to the next, because she can - never fully dedicating her attention to any of it. She wants to read and before we can finish a book she says, "actually I don't want this anymore" and is off. I ask her to color me a picture and I get a few scribbles and she's done. Dress up consists of more time changing in and out of costumes than the actual time role playing.
It has gotten out of control and as her mother and the one who is supposed to be laying a solid foundation it's going to stop. No more! The amount of "things" she has is going to be drastically reduced and strict rules on acquiring more will be put in place (popularity drops again).
Unless her toys meet the following guidelines, they will be donated or tossed:
1) Inspire Ella to use her imagination.
Colors/art, dress up, kitchen set-will make the cut, but the junky Mc Donalds kids meal collection is gone.
2) Aid in her development.
Books, puzzles, blocks, music-but the blinking lights and noise makers are out the door.
3) Played with on a regular basis and in good shape.
The baby dolls are a staple toy, but the dirty ones must go and maybe she'll learn to take better care of them.
4) Be original.
I don't mean that it needs to be some grand gesture or unique item. I just mean she doesn't need to have backup items of every single thing she owns. She doesn't need 38 pairs of sunglasses or 30 purses (I'm not exaggerating). This might help her understand that she needs to take care of her things because when they break she can't just swap it out.
I know that the gifts come from a place of love but she gets so many things at the same time she doesn't appreciate or utilize any of it. She has been trained to think its normal to receive numerous gifts every time she sees someone. More importantly she values attention much more than gifts. I'm sure she'd give it all up for some one-on-one time!
So this is serving as my public plea. Please stop giving Ella "things." We're doing our best to raise a stand up kid and like the article states, this change will help her take care of her things, become more resourceful, increase her attention span and build her creativity.
Let the purging begin!