Gordon, redux

A few months ago, I did a post about buying Jasper (my 3-year-old) a toy Gordon train in the book store. He and I were having a nice morning together, he asked for the train, and I bought it. Then I wallowed in a whole debate about whether I was “spoiling” him. Then I started asking why I was so worried about spoiling, given the size of the expenditure compared with various other things in our lives, and how much pleasure it would give him (and has, incidentally).

There were some great comments on that post, and I have really been thinking about that topic since then, especially since I have been facing a similar issue. Jasper has this Melissa & Doug easel, which works best with rolls of easel paper. Amazon sells 3-packs of 75-foot rolls for $20 (sometimes on sale). I put a new roll on last Wednesday, and by Friday he’d gone through the whole thing. So we turned the paper over and re-rolled it so he could use the back, and darned if he didn’t go through the whole thing in 2 days again.

I’ve been saying “don’t use so much paper,” because it seems wasteful and expensive. But the more I think about it, the more I don’t know why I’m saying that. I don’t like burning through a $7 roll of paper, but he’s voluntarily practicing writing his letters (I am so non tiger mom; he does this on his own). Right now there are probably parents paying a lot more than $7 to tutors to get children to practice writing. I could claim to be worried about the environment, but we stuff a whole Wall Street Journal and at least a magazine or two in the recycling bin every day. I don’t think Jasper is responsible for most of our household paper output.

So we’re basically down to the spoiling thing again — some little voice in my head telling me I should keep him from using as much paper as he wants. But I’ve been telling this little voice to go away. The world would probably be better if we could all spend as much time and space drawing pictures of trains (frequently, Gordon) with our crayons as we wanted. What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Gordon, redux

  1. Seems like a good toy to me! I am trying to read a book called Simplicity Parenting

    — (it is tied to the Waldorf School of parenting and I would never send my kid to a Waldorf school b/c a. we could never afford it and b. I believe in public schools and getting your kid to mix with more kinds of kids and c our public schools are good but

    BUT — AND HERE IS MY POINT — the one idea that the simplicity parenting movement I think is right on about is this idea that the more simple the “toy” the better has merit. For example if you had a toy as a child and if your mom had it that could be a good sign.. for example.. I consider a good snowsuit and boots and gloves an investment in my kids development and lo and behold my mom sent me a photo of us as kids in snow suits.. playing in the snow or going to the pool are age old traditions for a reason

    It is funny b/c that brand, “Melissa and Doug or Dave or whoever he is” is all about making that yuppy and great, and “new” and umm expensive — but it is actually an age-old idea…

    That is that toys that are more simple, and have been around longer — blocks, balls, dolls, (which btw I think boys should have too and many many do not interestingly, would love to read or write something on this most of my friends with boys only do not have dolls — so much for equality parenting training there) pretty much all art supplies and especially those which do not
    are better b/c the kid plays with then longer does not get bored etc.

    I think spoiling gets in to not being able to say no and having children who don’t do chores or who are ordering their parents around or who too-much set the agenda, but it would be interesting to look at what it means to be spoiled. You can definitely be materially spoiled and in young children I think this is reflected in them having too many toys for them to be able to focus on one…. we don’t buy toys but on our street there are 8 older kids and my kid has already too many toys that I hve to work to send some to the garage or sell them or donate them so that she is not overstimulated by so many…

    But art supplies that apparently do not trash your house? Seems like a win win to me.

    At his age I guess spoiling is when you give in when they freak out or when you maybe just give the easy food they will eat to get them to eat something…

  2. I struggle with this question, too, and it comes down to this: What counts as “waste”?

    He’s *using* a lot of paper, sure, but he doesn’t appear to be wasting it. He’s filling it, he’s doing art, he’s writing — all things that are great for kids to be doing. And he’s occupied! A $7 roll of paper every week or so is MUCH cheaper than many other ways to occupy him.

    Sometimes, in our fear of spoiling, we restrict kids (and ourselves) just because we somehow think restriction is virtuous. If it’s necessary financially, then we should do it, but if we can afford it and it’s reasonably healthy? Go for it.

  3. I never had kids, but one thing I’ve always done for the kids in my life is provide them with lots of paper. Especially for children who show any inkling of artistic interest. Creativity takes lots of paper. I’ve given huge pads of paper as Christmas gifts to some kids and I swear it was their favorite present.

  4. I would just get a chalk board or white board and let the paper be used for “non-practice” things only like art work. You can mount it on a wall wherever it will fit such as in the hall and take it down in a few years. I know that doesn’t really speak to your question about spoiling kids, but maybe there is often another solution or a compromise.

  5. I love to give arts & crafts supplies as gifts. I agree that they are a great investment and creativity is something we want to encourage. There is also something to be said, especially at Jasper’s age, about being able to stand up and write big. We try to save paper by having my husband bring home old work files, and we write/draw on the back.
    That said, my grandparents had a chalkboard on the wall in the basement and all the kids gravitated to it. (It may have been the really vibrant colored chalk they had), but now my own kids love to go down there and draw.
    You are NOT spoiling him, but investing in his development, and like Julie said, it’s cheaper than other things out there. (and keeping your walls clean)

  6. PS. I have just packed up all our wooden trains, tracks, etc for my way-in-the-future grandchildren. Learning Curve (who makes Thomas trains) lets you send them back and they will refurbish them for you–making them last even longer.

  7. Love this post! I actually have been wondering about whether I’m spoiling my 2-year-old. He rarely hears his dad and me say No — but that’s because he rarely does anything we need to say No to. Part of that is because he’s a good kid, but part of it is because I don’t care if he plays the keyboard (gently) with his feet or runs in the house or eats Greek yogurt an hour before dinner. Those things just aren’t worth fighting a battle over for me.

  8. I would put a chalkboard on that easel; it does sound wasteful to me. This sounds like a great opportunity to teach him about budgeting limited resources… Not that he has to leave his paper sitting there unused, but that he has to wait XX weeks until the next roll is avaialbe. Maybe he won’t care and he’ll use the roll just as fast each time, and maybe he’ll slow down and savor each page. It doesn’t really matter. His response to limited resources is going to depend on his personality.

    You’re only spoiling him if he thinks there is an unlimited supply of paper rolls in the closet and he can get a new one as soon as the old one is used up.

    Do you feel like you’re stiffling his enthusiasm by telling him to hold back on using the paper? Like you’re telling a kid who tears open his prepsents with wild abandon that he needs to slow down and tear off one piece at a time to make the present last longer?

  9. You are blessed to have a child who loves to scribble/draw/paint/draw. Let the child have a continuous supply. The alternative? video, electronic games, tv, facebook (ok maybe not at 3)
    These are the best times of your life. Let your child lead when it comes to positive activities.
    Consider Kumon. I enrolled with my kids when my youngest was just turning 6. You learn some amazing things about your kids and they in turn learn to overcome obstacles and have pride in their accomplishments. It helped me immensely (helped me get more done, boosted my confidence and my commission sales exploded to personal record highs). My youngest is completing his university degree with a 4+ gpa while taking biology, economics, finance, stats and is starting a 1 year tenure in his dream career. Kumon was the corner stone of our success.
    On another note remember paper is a RENEWABLE resource. Use it.
    IMHO spoiling a child is about allowing privileges without responsibility, not respecting manners, bed times or proper nutrition.
    Take lots of photos. They will be grownup and gone before you know it.

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