Needs and wants and dirty feet
There are few things as humorous as trying to explain the difference between “needs” and “wants” to a group of young children. For reasons our adult brains cannot understand, they honestly believe they need certain things to survive, including the newest plastic doll, video game, or the latest in absurd fashion crazes.
I remember this feeling quite well, trying to convince my parents in the early 1980’s that I needed parachute pants or else life would just not go on.
In my attempt to avoid having to enlighten my own kids, I find that nothing better puts life into perspective than a good ol’ family camping trip. And I’m not talking about loading up an RV and driving to campground where you plug in your satellite dish and the dangly Christmas-type lights from your instant front porch. I’m talking about the sort of camping that involves a tent, a fire, the hum of a Coleman lantern, and walking a half a mile to use the bathroom.
It’s a beautiful thing, really.
With the limits of our smallish vehicle, once we load the tent, sleeping bags, food and other essentials, there’s barely enough room for our children.
“Kids, you each have a shoebox to pack your things in for the weekend. Be wise, and even though I know what you’re thinking, yes, you need to take a toothbrush and extra underwear.”
Suddenly, the differences between needs and wants become quite an important thing to think about. In an instant, a large game is traded for a deck of cards. An extensive wardrobe is exchanged for simple clothes, all which can hold a bit of dirt and still be presentable. And in the great crusade against video games, you can honestly tell them that there is no real way of charging those awful things in the wilderness, so best to leave them at home.
Once reality sets in and the shoeboxes are packed, the family camping trip ensues, with all of its glory and frustrations.
We had the pleasure of taking a weekend long trip lumped in with a family reunion earlier this summer. Amid the RV’s and pop-ups, we found ourselves one of the only tents on the campground road. At night, the song of the cicadas just about drowned out the buzz of the air conditioner two sites down, and my kids got yet another lesson in the subject of needs versus wants. True camping is the essence of living simply, taking only what you need, and making use of everything you brought.
And for what it’s worth, my kids had a great time with absolutely nothing. Sitting back and watching a family worth of children, they fought with sticks, jumped over holes, invented games and a million other things, some of which I’m glad I don’t know about. After a long morning of playing, we headed to the actual family reunion gathering, filled with table upon table of potluck goodies and a heap of silly games for all of the kids to play. Balloons were popped and relays raced, but when there were a few prizes remaining, someone other than myself shouted out, “ok, last game. Which kid has the dirtiest feet?”
The contestants instantly thrust their feet in the air and there, at the end of the line, were the two big winners… My daughters.
I couldn’t have been prouder if they just won a gold medal in the Olympics.
In a world of overprotecting our children, the primping of girls and getting sucked into the astonishing need for material things, there were my daughters, wearing a cloak of complete filth on their tootsies.
“What?” said my oldest. “I didn’t think I needed to wash my feet. I brushed my teeth and I thought that was good enough until I got home.”
Oh, that one. She’s one smart (and grimy) cookie.