What’d ya get? | Mark’s Remarks

Every year, when school starts back up, I like to eavesdrop on my students a little. I usually hear them talking about “what they got” for Christmas. There is some conversation about toys and games, new clothing or shoes, and general recaps of the happenings during vacation. 

Even in our affluent community, I hear kids talking about “what they did” instead of “what they got.” 

Sure, I still hear kids talking about materialistic things and I will tell you the kids in our communities are not being raised in a realistic world. Most of them could not even begin to tell you what hardship or poverty is like.

But these kids know loneliness. Some of them know what it’s like to have parents who don’t pay attention to them, too wrapped up in their own worldliness to nurture properly. Socioeconomic status has nothing to do with how well we nurture our kids, in my opinion.

I’m glad to know many of these kids place great importance on interaction.  They come back to school talking about where they went, games they played, or conversations they had with their families and friends.  They come back to school talking about their parents being off work and playing outside. They talk about wishing for snow so that their family can build a snowman together. They talk about unwrapping a Nerf gun and having a battle in their pajamas with parents and siblings.  They smile and laugh about silly things their family members did or said.  

Interaction. Not what they got, but how much time someone spent with them.  

Conversations. Not what their favorite present was, but how much time they spent telling stories or making one another laugh.

I am pleased to say there are numerous families who are doing the right thing.  As an educator, I’m often Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to judging parents and looking down my nose at how folks raise their children.

However, I still see parents who nurture. I see parents who take time and place great emphasis on sacrificing their own wants and needs so they can tuck their kids in or be there for supper. I see plenty of parents going without the luxuries we see in our wealthy communities, just so they can be at home with their kids and be the primary caregiver.

I heard some conversations over my vacation about gifts. A few people were talking about how exciting after-Christmas sales were and I overheard some siblings running down a list of gifts they’d given one another, comparing the value. It made me want to sit them all down and give them a good talking to.

I also overheard people talking about how, as they grow older, a plate of cookies or a nice, handwritten note means just about as much as any gift. Being able to actually get together and have a meal together is especially important to us lately, isn’t it?

I’m a fan of no gifting among extended family and friends. To me, and many I’ve talked to, just being able to get together is enough. I believe this is something we need to raise our kids to believe, too. 

Presents on Christmas morning from Santa? Sure!  But don’t lose the purpose of gift giving.  

So, no, I don’t think all kids are greedy little boogers. I don’t feel all of the parents in our affluent towns are snotty, materialistic ding-dongs. I see the proof, coming to school. I see parents instilling in their kids the good stuff; the values and the beliefs that there’s just more to life and stuff.

I think the majority of these kids are being raised the right way, and I think that as they grow, they are going to carry on the good stuff, growing into capable and dependable adults.  

I remain optimistic we will be in good hands as they take over the reins of our world.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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