Free our kids

June 23, 2014
Tamara Petkau |

The other day I was enjoying a night out sans children. However, even if children aren’t physically present, they are still always in our hearts, on our minds, and still dominating the conversation. Honestly, I don’t even know what I talked about before children. Perhaps world events. Probably not.

Anyway, there we were talking about children and someone mentioned one of my favorite blogs to follow: "Free Our Kids." I first heard about this blog on CBC Radio and, at first glance, it may seem like just another mommy-blog, this one is unique in that it doesn’t push products and a glam lifestyle. Rather, it challenges that very notion and simply details the everyday life of a family (through the mother’s voice) as they raise their kids without spending any money on them!

“Yeah, it’s a nice idea, but after a bit, I think I’d get tired of always asking for hand-me-downs,” stated a colleague. I couldn’t help but think he had missed the point. The blog is not about scoring free stuff, it’s about learning to live with less stuff.

According the the Fraser Institute, it costs a minimum of $3,000 to 4,500 per year to raise a child in Canada. There are a billion different factors to consider, but they claim that is the average cost to house, feed, clothe, and educate a child every year. That seems like a lot. But as I look around my house, my yard, the car—at the toys and clothes strewn everywhere—I can’t help but wonder how much I do spend on my children? How much do they actually need?

I know they don’t need much. I know I am giving them too much, and I know that that is not a good thing. I know that Boo doesn’t need ballet classes, six tutus, and an annoyed parent trying to shoo her back into first position. She is much happier to dance around the kitchen performing her own moves to her favorite Johnny Cash song. E doesn’t need five pairs of rubber boots to sit in a puddle. In fact, all these girls really need to be happy is a cardboard box and a parent to play peek-a-boo with.

More stuff doesn’t mean more love. It means something darker and much more complicated with our society and our way of parenting. It’s a hard cycle to break and frankly, I don’t really know where to begin, because if I want less for my children, shouldn’t I live by example? And well, that doesn’t sound like as much fun.

Here’s to a challenge.

And here’s to five toys every child should have. Let's spoil them wonderful.

And here’s to the most beautiful book dedication ever (though I am not a fan of the book itself):

“For Jesus, who lived so lightly on this earth, He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. I want so deeply to be like You.”  --Jen Hatmaker, in 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess

Author Name: 
Tamara Petkau
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My girls are all grown, but I think about this topic when I visit with kids in Iraqi Kurdistan. One 4 year old in particular (who I accidently tripped over and stomped on while shopping in her parent's hardware shop). I now visit with the family every time I am in Iraqi Kurdistan with CPT. Seema has a 2 foot x 2 foot cupboard for everything she owns. She pulls out the same toys every time I am there. One of her favourites is a tattered photo album with pictures of herself, her family and me. She is such a happy bouncy, smiley little thing.

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