The dorm life of a not-so-young adultWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While seeking out the few accessories left needed to complete our newly remodeled bathroom, I couldn’t help but notice oodles of brightly colored $2 trash cans, $6 hampers and $9 floor lamps lining the aisles of just about every store. There was a day, before children, when cheaply made fuchsia bath towels would not have caught my eye. However, just the idea of the back-to-school dorm life sales now sets my spirit meter to high.
There was a brief era in my not-so-distant past when my husband, Mike, and I had the time, money and energy to spend hours researching and debating the quality of everything from cars to electronics to bathroom accessories. If we were going to bring something new into our lives, it was surely going to be the perfect fit at the perfect price. Ah, the life of luxury.
The things we purchased weren’t actually luxurious per se; they were usually quite sensible. The luxury, which we had no ability to gauge and appreciate at the time, was the effort and the personal choice we were able to put into our purchasing decisions.
And then came children.
It wasn’t long into our first child’s toddlerhood that Mike and I began to realize that the way we viewed our possessions would have to change.
I was aware of baby proofing, but the material lifestyle necessary to accommodate the curiosity and will of small children went beyond safety. As soon as each of our children learned to control their movements enough to gain ground, our material possessions came under constant and rapid fire.
A couch isn’t just a couch to a 2-year-old; it’s a balance beam, a trampoline, their own personal Mt. Everest. Its cushions are a completed puzzle begging to be deconstructed and strewn across a room. A DVD case is a code to be cracked open with its shiny circular tenant removed as reward for a job well done. In fact, each and every household item is a physics lesson, a construction project, a challenge to be met.
Even the most well-intended of actions by young children can put a strain on the welfare of a family’s material possessions. My 4-year-old, determined to take responsibility for her messes, tends to unwittingly abuse the closest towel by sopping up things like grape juice and milk without bothering to let dear old mom or dad know that said towel has been used for such and is now sitting crumpled up in the darnedest of hidden places. Of course, it’s also difficult to soak up every ounce when you’re new to cleaning, so anything that had been in the path of the spill also sits quietly in danger of permanent damage.
Witnessing the magical allure of the trash can and the toilet that makes her parents and siblings throw frequent offerings into them, my 16-month-old can’t help but perform the act herself. It’s fairly difficult for a toddler to discern what is appropriate to feed to the trash can and the toilet, however, which puts any random object she can carry across a room and hoist above a rim at risk of being lost forever.
Our children taking on the material world with such a no-holds-barred demeanor has turned our once coddled possessions into an alternate ending for “Goodnight Moon.” Goodbye exposed cable and goodbye glass-top table. Goodbye nice chair and goodbye random pieces of silverware. Hello child-proof locks and goodbye matching socks. Look out cat and anything that could go “splat.”
Ironically, neither Mike nor I have ever lived in a dorm, until now. The unremitting war that has been declared on our stuff by our three children has forced us to let go of the idea that we can have nice, well-reasoned things for at least the next 15 years. We are resident advisers in a world of boundary pushing and chaotic self-discovery. We live in an 1,800-square-foot dorm with the pizza boxes to prove it.
Considering the foolishness of purchasing anything not ruin-ready in the relentless storm of spilled milk, urine, vomit and other destructive forces that comprise a house with small children, I have started to fill our material voids with dorm items to match our dorm lifestyle. While fuzz-laden fuchsia bath towels may not have been my first choice in years past, their $3 price now screams, “You can have something new for once!”
As much as we enjoyed our years of thoughtful young adult consumerism, Mike and I don’t miss the time, money and energy spent on picking out material possessions. Our resources are much better spent on the three little living, breathing things that mean more than anything in this world ever has before.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Tags: Family Practice