Monday, April 30, 2007

Practice and Reward

I've been watching little bits of Sesame Street with my son for the past few days in order to rid him of his Elmo (and general muppet) aversion. My feeling is, he doesn't have to like Elmo (or own the doll, for that matter), but he shouldn't be scared of Elmo. He shouldn't cry and run screaming from the room anytime he glimpses the little red guy.

It just so happens that the sort of moralistic thread through this particular episode of Sesame Street that we've been watching is that most things worth doing require practice. And of course you can't expect to do something perfectly the first time you do it. You have to work at it.

So Tully works on his cheer for the Grouch parade (consisting of drumming on his garbage can lid chest protector and yelling Grrrrrrrrouch! simultaneously) and a little girl in Mongolia has to learn how to do the aptly-named Mongolian bowl dance where, guess what, she has to balance bowls on her head.

As I watch this with my son, I am actively wondering what of this he gets. Does he follow these little equations? Does he store these little nuggets in his squirrel brain? If so, how does he see them as relevant to him? Or does he not... does he simply store most of what he encounters and then only index it later on as he has more experience which makes this knowledge appropriate or important?

***

Another thought about practice making perfect... My husband and I have been Tivo-ing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and watching 2 or 3 episodes on the weekend. Of course, this being too soon after the Virginia Tech shootings to make most jokes, Stewart instead focused on the media coverage, most of which I was happy to miss. Somehow seeing all the coverage put into his wry perspective cures me of the pain that it would have caused to actually watch it. One of the things he pointed out was that in order to fill dead airtime (and to make the whole thing more sensational and compelling, ick), the tv pundits and analysts were speculating as to what allowed this shooting to happen.

Apparently, it was guns, lack of parental involvement, xenophobia, violent movies and video games (not necessarily in that order).

Well, as far as the video games go, they may have been half right. That's not to say that every kid who plays violent video games will become violent, but it is to say that for whatever reason, as this Slate article discusses, there seems to be a correlation between kids who play violent video games being more violent themselves. Now, that's not to say that the video games cause the real-life violence, or whether kids who already have violent tendencies or traits self-select such games. Still, it seems to me that correlation should not be overlooked. Go read the article for yourself and see what you think.

***

So I was over at Feeding Time at the Zoo and N. was talking about money and about wanting so many things (as we, I suspect, all do). Since neither I nor most of the people I know are of infinite means, it seems we all have to develop some strategy to not constantly feel like we want to buy things.

I started to think about the coping mechanisms I've developed to quell my need to spend and to have (which, as a public service and in the name of truth in advertising, I will admit that, according to my DH, I'm not nearly consistent enough with).

Drumroll please...

I do my laundry. Yes, ladies and gents, that is coping mechanism #1. Many times when I feel like nothing in my closet fits or I am sick of everything I see, I simply have to wade through the veritable oceans of dirty clothes that never ever, despite my best efforts, are all clean at the same time. Most often I find some (or, ahem, many) long-lost and forgotten items that just so happen to fit and aren't so god-awful hideous.

I garden. (This of course really only works during the warmer months, but this one's a goodie). I don't know what it is about gardening that gets me off the comsumer treadmill. If I were totally idealistic, I would think that it's some loosey-goosey connection with God and the world, mother nature, etc. pp.

However, I suspect that more likely than not, it's a combination of other things: physical activity, sunlight, distraction. Weeding is an extremely cathartic activity which somehow seems to take care of the same obsessive activity needs that would otherwise require shopping or knitting or compulsive internet surfing. Also, I think gardening allows you to buy things with your eyes. You don't really own flowers or plants. They are somehow gracious and generous all at once. And let's face it, some colors just look much better in nature than on your ass in a pair of jeans.

I un-shop. I go into stores with specifically the caveat that I must leave empty-handed. Again, I shop with my eyes. I get ideas for things that I can make or do inspired by what I see. Now, granted, many times when I do that I pick up things along the way. I carry them around. I try and justify in my mind why I need a particular item. Then when I get up to the register, I abandon ship. Yes, I am the bane of every store clerk's existence.

The only thing I will say about this last method is that sometimes it has the unintended consequence that I actually feel guilty as though I did spend the money. (Try that one on for size, Herr Freud).

Still, in general, my best practices are the ones that keep me out of the stores, out of the market so-to-speak for temptation, self-improvement, vanity and bought fixes. In fact, I think most of my impulses to buy new things are actually signals to pay attention to myself, to take time out, to feel connected or indulged.

Now, that's not to say that one should never buy new things. Or, occasionally, expensive ones, even. It's just that most often, it's not really the solution to what ails me. Yes, I know, all this stuff is easier said than done. But, then again, as Tully says, Practice makes better.

1 comment:

DaxPWD said...

All good solutions! Thanks again!

I wonder what the kids get from the moralistic stuff too. I mean, these are not simple concepts for adults...but I agree, not being afraid of Elmo is probably education enough :)