June 8, 2013

Generation Excess. ~ Olivia Zino

Do we create chaos throughout our day simply by trying to have it all?

Are we suffocating our children under piles of stuff, while rotting on the inside from the innocent consumption of well-intentioned but chemically-laden meals?

If you were a cartoon, would smoke be coming out of your ears and wouldyour children have spinning heads—all in the name of love?

How much is too much?

We are a generation of excess. And our children are the product of a generation of excess multiplied by the extra amount of love, care and attention we give them.

This brings the excessiveness to exorbitant proportions. It is natural to do more for our children than for ourselves. It is also the trend to improve things as time goes on. Educational organizations try to make schools better. Parents attempt to provide their children with more than or equal to what they had.

Here is the problem with those good intentions: our standards have become so unattainable and over-saturated that we begin exuding self-indulgence and ego-inflation. Our generation has been called the “me” generation. We have been groomed to believe we can be, do and have anything we want. That’s like having a toddler mindset and mixing it with adult power and three over-priced, over-sized, and over-sugared coffees a day—no good!

What are we doing? We take this mentality and put it all on our children. We want them to have this, that and everything—and more.

But how much is too much? How much is enough? With mindful consumption and awareness, we can control an incredible amount of this excess in very simple ways.

Many of us float around mindlessly as if in a dream, directed by marketing and consumerism. We seldom stop to consider many of our everyday choices. Consumerism that is targeted toward children is at an all-time high. Advertising and products that are made to inflate the ego—that say you’re a “good mom” and your children “need” this to become smarter, happier, or more successful—are so prevalent that they are practically swimming in our drinking water. We ingest it all without even knowing it. It gets absorbed into our very being, keeping us up at night, mulling over brand names, enrichment programs and designer clothes.

We become so incredibly absorbed in what we want in the future for ourselves and our children that we forget what we are giving them (and ourselves) right at this very moment.

We rush our children through the day-to-day child-rearing factory, while barely giving them or ourselves a chance to breathe and smile. We are so rushed most of the time; we scold them and redirect them when they are behaving exactly as they should from a developmental perspective. They ask questions and stop and look at the world around them. You did the same thing when you were a child. Do you remember seeing a field of dandelions covering an area that was bare the day before? It was new, beautiful and fascinating. It still is in your children’s eyes.

It can be for you too, if you take the moment to see it again for the first time.

But it can easily turn into a ruined moment, if we rush ourselves and our children past nature’s beauty to go to your next destination. Even if we are late in getting there, it’s worth it to stop and appreciate the earth around us and fill our heart with gratitude and wonder for 10 seconds.

But instead let’s say we continue on your journey. Strapping the kids into the over-sized gas-guzzling car, filled with “just in case” sneakers, first-aid kits, soccer balls, extra clothes, stuffed animals and toys, we think over the frighteningly full itinerary for the rest of the day. On the seat next to us is our designer bag, which probably cost hours of work and hundreds of dollars. That is time we could’ve spent with our children, and money we might have invested in a good cause.

Perhaps our designer bag contains other things that we may have bought without thinking.

Is your wallet packed with too many receipts for non-essentials? Do you have tubes of lip coloring? Do you know that they may have been tested on animals, and may contain cancer-causing substances? And do you realize that hand sanitizer poisons our bodies and our ecosystem? There are studies that prove all of this. They are simply and sadly not mainstream. You have to look for them.

As we take this trip, there are consequences we may not be thinking about. Our car fills the air with carbon dioxide and our over-tired, under-nourished children are hypnotized in front of the car’s DVD player. We fill our minds and bodies with stress hormones and tense up our muscles to navigate through heavy traffic.

This is all done in love. We are going to drop the children off for one hour of enrichment activity. Granted, much of this activity is wonderful, amazing and designed by those who understand child development. But a lot of those are activities we could do at home. You’ve seen the science kits and video games geared toward kids to help them learn how to count and how plants grow. “Ohhh,” you say. “Yes, my future environmentalist/mathematician needs that!”

Here’s a suggestion. Stay home, go outside, plant some seeds, talk to your children about them and count the seeds as you drop them into the earth. A science and math lesson, right in your own backyard.

As an added bonus, we’ll be able to look our children in the eye, spend time together and give them a few hugs and high fives along the way.

We can both benefit from the fresh air and sunshine, since most children are also Vitamin D deficient due to being indoors too much. When lunch arrives, we tend to do what is quickest and easiest. We may have already taken the coffee break—which contains high amounts of hormone-laced dairy and diabetes-causing sugar—once or twice today, so we may not feel drawn in by the radio commercials to hit the nearest drive-thru. If so, congratulations, it’s a small victory. Now our child will escape eating hormone-filled chicken nuggets, obesity-inducing fries, and chemical-laced, artificially-colored, sugar-filled liquid in a cup—I mean, soda.

I hope you do not head home and prepare a sandwich made from lunchmeat. Unfortunately, this tasty, convenient treat has recently been termed unsafe for human consumption. And if you are using white bread, it could contain GMOs and be full of chemicals that will instantly turn into sugar in your child’s bloodstream.

Further, from a behavioral perspective, you may be saddened and perplexed by your child’s tantrums directly following lunch or his or her inability to concentrate in school. New studies have been coming out linking diet to learning and behavior. However, the inability to concentrate could also be caused by lack of sleep, too much screen time and not enough exercise. It’s a possibility.

These are sad facts, but facts they are. The good news is: you do have a choice. You have the ability to choose gratitude for the variety of food and activities surrounding you. All that is needed is a mindful intention. Although it may be hard to “turn off” the years of advertising and marketing that’s been directed at you, you can do it!

Remember your own childhood, before you were affected by “me-generation” marketing?

Summon up your most magical memories. Perhaps you can think of a specific doll or toy that was falling apart because you loved it so much. Remember floating away in the imaginative outdoor games you played with your siblings, cousins and neighbors? Soaring freely down a hill on your bike for the very first time? The excitement of summer twilights where you were out past dark and would soon be called in for the evening? These moments encompassed pure, childhood bliss. What a shame it would be if we replaced all of this with piles of plastic toys and endless car rides to activities and enrichment.

It is not a shame to carefully choose a few enrichment programs, sports teams or toys for your child. These have their own benefits, such as socialization, teamwork and exercise. Once you arrive back home to finish your day, you are faced with more choices. If you can dig them out from under your child’s bed and all the name-brand, “every kid has to have it” toys, you might want to select a few good books and read them to your child. This is literacy, language and emotional enrichment all in one. Most children have a few select toys and activities they really engage in, based on interest. That, along with a patch of grass and their imagination, is all they need!

It may all seem overwhelming, but there is one simple solution: blow away all the layers that are weighing you down.

Underneath is simply, beautifully and authentically your life. Just slow down and take the time to choose. Do not fly through life like Velcro, letting every single idea, suggestion and material possession cling to you as it passes you by. Do not let the idea that you should be perfect and have everything turn you and your children into consumers of excess.

Too many of these things that cling to your life will cover you up like a thousand moths drawn to a lantern; you will dim your own inner light, your free will, spirit and freedom—and it will be the same for your children. When we mindfully consume, whether it is food, activity or material goods, we take the time to think. It is about simplifying.

It is not as much about having less, as it is about having more of what really matters.

It is challenging, but it is possible and worthwhile. Incredibly intelligent people are paid millions of dollars to figure out how to influence us psychologically and emotionally to want these things, and they are so good at it!

But all we need to do is stop and think: What exactly am I feeding my kids, both literally and figuratively? What exactly is the result of this activity, not only on myself and my children, but also the planet and community as a whole?

Look at the big picture: the ingredients, the production, the effect on your children’s development, as well as environmental concerns. It is a lot to think about. But you have the power to make a choice.

The whole point of the “me” generation is to claim our individuality and make things happen—but what are we actually creating? If you make an effort to be mindful, the “me” mentality and the drive for the ultimate lifestyle can be transformed into an amazing adventure for all.

Most importantly, don’t try to be perfect—just try to live in the moment and do your best.


Olivia Zino has turned an eclectic mix of her BA in Communications, MS in Education and single motherhood of bouncing off the wall Irish Twins ( born 10 1/2 months apart) into becoming an avid consumer of mindfulness, yoga and meditation. As a writer, she has created an assortment of theoretical pixie sticks, glamour, glitz and wittiness, sitting, thinking, drinking in humanity, freely producing reflective poetry and musings on the absurdly obvious, yet deeply hidden gems of life, motherhood and child development.

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  • Assistant Ed: Dejah Beauchamp
  • Ed: Brianna Bemel
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