It seems that kids are not the only ones who have a lot to learn from adults. In some cases, we have a lot more to learn from them and I am grateful for the fact of having such a wonderful baby boy who is here to teach me some things I never knew and some things that I had forgotten since becoming an adult.
And one of the most important things that my eight months-old baby is trying to teach me is how to be happy without money. Because, clearly, it’s possible.
We decided that we won’t turn our kid into a spoiled little brat that has everything that he wants and ends up not knowing how to value experiences over possessions. I’ve seen way too many times kids being completely uninterested in small toys and wanting bigger, better and more expensive ones, only to forget about them as well when even bigger and better toys become available.
As a result, our eight months old has no more than a dozen or so toys. We have friends whose houses are filled with toys of different shapes and sizes an sometimes I am ready to give in and buy some for my son, just like everybody else. Because he deserves the best, right? And, from the point of view of an adult man, the best is the same with a lot.
However, my toddler decided to teach me a lesson.
It all happened the other day when I was at the computer, writing, and I hear him starting to laugh like he never did before, from his bed. He was all alone there, so I turned to check out what was happening. He was laying on a side, with his back at me, hugging a little blue elephant toy that he has for a couple of months already.
I moved a little to the side to see the entire scene and I was really shocked: you could see happiness in his eyes while he was pushing away the little toy, then quickly dragging it towards him, chewing it a bit and then fondling its noisy ears. And he was laughing, looking at that blue toy, and he was pushing it away once more, then doing it over and over again. A toy that he has for about two months. A small, uninteresting – maybe a little stupid toy.
What really made me give a better thought to the situation was the fact that he was so happy. Not necessarily the laugh as he likes to laugh a lot, but that sheer, genuine, complete happiness that you could read in his eyes. He was wearing his house clothes – with already washed up colors – and playing with an old toy and still he was absolutely happy.
He doesn’t need more. Nobody needs more – but we live in a society where we are made to believe that we actually need a lot more to be happy.
Possessions – we are told that we need things. I need a new t-shirt, I need new shoes, I need a bigger screen TV and a new smartphone. My laptop is already two years old and even though it still works flawlessly, I need to upgrade. I need more. I need more. I need more, otherwise I can’t be happy.
And what do I need in order to get more? I need money. Eventually, it all gets to this: you need more money to be happy.
Because no matter how much you make, you will still reach that point where you will need more. And strangely, as you all probably know as a general truth: people who have more money are also unhappier. And despite knowing this generic truth, we still refuse to be the adults we say we are and we still care what the Joneses say and do and have and we need to be like them.
And we are trained to believe that we need things. When we actually want them. When we are actually taught to believe that we want them.
My baby boy is, right now, the purest, most sincere and happiest person in our house. His needs are basic and the same can be said about a grownup’s needs too: we need a place to sleep, we need food on our table, we need water to drink and wash ourselves, we need people to socialize with and we need entertainment to stay sane. But we invent so many extra needs in our quest to become happier, managing only to make our lives more miserable.
I have read so many stories of people who sold or gave away everything they got and decided to live on their own, somewhere deep in the forests or up high on the mountains. They claimed to be happier, I considered them crazy. But now I see it: they are not. We are the crazy ones and we don’t let the lessons taught by our kids, for example, turn us in the right direction.
My kid taught me the other day how to be happy without money. He doesn’t need stuff. He can even play and have just as much fun with our clothes, with his clothes or with his feet… everything else is just a bonus. A bonus that, unfortunately, ends up ruining everything by turning you into a person – like everybody else – who wants more. And this is generally the road to unhappiness.