The best holiday Souvenir

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Walking along the lake during our last evening in Lugano, our family was discussing the plan for the evening ahead. When I realised that the shops were about to close in an hour, I decided to pop into the food section of a big department store. There I would be a able to find my favorite souvenir:  food!

Being in the Italian part of Switzerland for the past 8 days, we hadn’t yet had our fair share of delicious pasta dishes and I wanted to take some home with me. The older two kids wanted to come along with me, so we left Hubby and my youngest to stroll and we upped our pace to make it to the shops before closing. We didn’t get more than 500m before one kid piped in and said, “While you’re downstairs I’ll just pop upstairs to get those sunglasses I have had my eye on. I did what you said, and thought very hard about it and now I want to buy them.”

And yes, she did “think” about it but I knew straight away that it was not about the sunglasses. It was more about making the purchase itself. I used all my techniques that I have ingrained in my brain to deal with this but it all wasn't working. She was determined to buy something and I was determined not to let her. So I slowed my pace and Hubby eventually caught up to us. 

I was at a loss of what to do. But my instinct was not to go, so I listened and decided that the pasta wasn’t worth the fight that was about to proceed, so we continued on to find dinner without visiting the store. 

This was only the latest in a series of scenarios where my daughter wants desperately to buy something random when we are away on holiday.  And it’s so predictable—but why couldn’t I break the cycle?

Then the answer hit me like a ton of bricks.  

What do kids want to do more than anything in the world?  

Be like their parents. 

They copy what we do, not what we say. 

I first came across this theory when I started the Uncluttered course from Joshua Becker. One of the first interviews he conducted was the with mum of 2 and fellow slow living advocate, Brooke McAlary. As they both have kids themselves, their conversation quickly turned into minimalism and children.  One of the biggest complaints people have about trying to adopt minimalism is trying to change the habits of their kids. Kids love things and they love to buy stuff.  But the most poignant point of the whole conversation was when Joshua said that the kids aren’t the ones driving themselves to the store to purchase something. They are there nagging us, because we are there ourselves. 

We are their example.

Despite having drastically changed my behaviour when it comes to shopping and consumerism over the past years, I have not given my daughter the chance to catch up. She spent the first 8 years of her life watching me buy things and get that little high when I found just the perfect thing.  She was raised on me encouraging her to line up her Christmas gifts so I could take a photo of her haul. Her example for three-quarters of her life has been one of consumerism. And despite me leading now by example, I can’t expect her to change that ingrained behaviour overnight. 

I need to be patient with her. To lead by example. 

So without her even knowing it, just by not going into the store to begin with, I made steps toward slowly disabling her consumerism. When I aborted the pasta buying visit, I led by example and demonstrated to her that a holiday does not need to be defined by the purchases we make but rather through memories that we leave with of our time together.

Yes, avoiding it may not always be possible, or it may not always be the answer. But sometimes it is.  

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Back to Lugano:  On our way home from our trip, I asked the kids what their favourite part of the week was. I got excited comments about getting to eat gelato every day, about our big hikes, about the water that splashed Z in the face at the water park, and about playing board games together inside while it rained.  These were the souvenirs we have taken home. Long forgotten were those sunglasses and fresh pasta that we left behind at the store. 

So parents, it takes fortitude, but think twice before you reward your kids with something that is bought.  As tempting and easy as it is to do, I would bet you could fill bags with your old, unused, and unappreciated souvenirs.  Resist buying stuff to take home, when possible and appropriate.  Show your kids that the trip is not about what you buy, but about what you do.  In doing so you are building a solid relationship based on being together, not on buying stuff.  And hopefully when the little ones finally flee your nest, it won’t be the stuff they will miss.  They will miss and continue to want time together with you.

And that, my friends, is one of my most important goals in this short life of ours. —that my kids will one day want (and love) to come back home, with families of their own, to continue to make those memories.