First world worries

Not giving your kids everything is a good place to start.
Not giving your kids everything is a good place to start. 

How do you teach kids to appreciate what they have in life?

It’s a classic first world dilemma: right up there with microwave popcorn that won’t pop! Someone said that to me the other day, I’d never heard it before. A first world dilemma, as opposed to a third world one. 

It got me thinking about the kids. 

It’s all about the balance, you know? We’ve got to get the balance right, give our kids enough but not too much. Let them know they’re special, and we love them, and let them think we’ll give them everything, but not actually doing it. Because, as we all know, the balance will be buggered and our worlds will be full of little monsters.  

You just can’t give your kids everything they want. At least, you can’t let them think they can have everything they want. Who’s happy with everything? Tiger wasn’t! Lance wasn’t! The rich kid round the corner who bullies everyone isn’t because he’s spending half his time at your place playing with fire in your Bessa brick incinerator. That’s what our resident rich kid used to do. He wasn’t allowed to have an incinerator so he used everyone elses – ended up being a fireman!

So how do we get the balance right?  I have no real idea! 

Ours was a household of five kids, chops, sausages, mashed potatoes, peas, beans and tomato sauce. If you didn’t eat your tea you were reminded of the starving kids in Africa, which was interesting because we had no idea where or what Africa was. And when we did work it out we still had no real idea of what it would be like to be starving there because we were on a quarter acre block in semi rural Mt Eliza. Life was about how far you could jump your dragster and watching tadpoles turn into frogs.

Can’t decide between an X-box and a Wii and a motorized midget truck? No sweat, get ‘em all! Why not?  They’re cheap, they’re cheerful, you’ll be the fun one! But as all that new stuff piles up and clogs corner cupboards and collects dust, it becomes pretty obvious the kids don’t need everything. In fact, they might be better off with a lot less. 

Do kids who play under the sprinkler have any less fun than kids swimming in a pool? Okay, probably. But I know kids who have real pools that come to our place and swim in a $48 blow up pool from Big W and still laugh their heads off. It’s not so much about the pool but who’s in it. We could have a real pool, I suppose. But that would be at the expense of the veggie garden – which should have veggies in it. 

Frankly, the vegie garden exists as an expanse of possibility. A reminder of what can be achieved, might be achieved. At last count there was a mango, four zucchini’s, two zucchini flowers, two and a half strawberries and a mystery veg we’re pretty excited about. 


I’m sure it’s a first world pastime to let your veggies go to seed. To let them vine ripen for the possums and other marsupials who get out when we’re all going to bed. 

I’d bet it wouldn’t happen in the third world, though. 

I’m guessing there are no questions about X-box’s or iphones or GPS watches. It’s a guess, but I don’t think third world kids could give a stuff about knowing exactly how far they travelled from the toilet to the kitchen to the table tennis table to the car and back to the toilet again because they didn’t wash their hands. They wouldn’t care about knowing the tide height in Manly when you live in Melbourne, or the outside temperature or the barometric pressure or anything a bog standard Casio will tell you.

The third world balance is probably a little different, and like my parents and their parents probably did, we can only try and remind our kids, how lucky they really are. But how? Not making them so lucky? Or giving them opportunities to entertain themselves in a third-world kind of way. Sounds bad, doesn’t it, but it’s not meant to. I mean it in a teach-our-kids-how-to-entertain-themselves kind of way. Without phones or gaming consoles or logging on. Teach them to entertain themselves by turning up and tuning in to the possibilities around them. 

Point them toward a spare half hour and say fill that with something that doesn’t need a battery. That’s a first world dilemma!