A conversation between my eldest and my middlest:
I need my pudding please.
Ermm, you want your pudding. You don’t need it.
Precocious children or the result of smug parenting? You decide. Regardless, I was beaming with pride when I heard my pre-schooler and primary schooler enter into this tete a tete. For, while I guess I don’t need a child who rejects unfettered consumerism, there is no denying that I want one.
I am a sucker for the quotes and the images and the quirky tweets encouraging us to replace our wants with needs. A simpler life: how liberating.
Recently, though, I had a bit of a perspecitve-changer. I was chatting to a friend who stated that, while we might like the NHS, we don’t really need it. This rather frazzled my befuddled brain, because there is no denying that we got to 1948 without an NHS. How could I dispute her claim? How could I reconcile what she was saying, my general NHS supporter-vibe, and my, “Wants = bad. Needs = good.” approach to life?
It got me thinking: if I want to help my kids pursue their needs, rather than their wants, what do I believe their needs are?
Because, all I really need is a bit of shelter (a cave will do), to find a bit of food and water every now and then, and the air that I breathe. If we are thinking beyond myself, to the survival of the human race as a whole, opportunities to procreate would come in handy, as would not being in perpetual fear of murder, rape or pillage by my fellow need-seekers.
Is that it? Seriously, I want my kids to need more than that!
I could add, “some pleasure”, but I would have to caveat that with, “so long as they don’t find pleasure in shopping for tat that I can’t see much value in”. Although, the problem with that is, from my friend’s perspective, the NHS is tat that she can’t see much value in. Bugger.
I quickly realised that me and my friend were actually asking very different questions. What might have helped us have a more meaningful conversation is if we had asked each other, “what do we need in order to [fill in blank]”. We needed to agree on the ‘blank’.
If your blank is, “to be alive for a bit”, or, “to save as much money as possible”, then we don’t need very much at all. If it is, “to be happy”, then it is a very lovely ‘blank’, but perhaps a bit too vague, a bit too open to our individual whims. The question I might prefer to consider with my kids is:
what do you need to allow you, and those around you, to flourish?
Here’s a little challenge that I have set myself, join in if you like. Take out the obvious things such as ‘love’, and ‘world peace’: you can have those as a given. Then ask yourself, “what do our children need in order to flourish together as human beings?”.
I’m not sure I am happy enough with my list yet to blog it. But in the meantime, I’ll start with:
- Free access to decent healthcare
- A good pudding* every now and then
They need that, don’t you think?
*so relieved my kids were talking about pudding, not cake. Could have all sounded a bit Marie Antoinette …