Thursday, April 30, 2009


Like Sidda Walker in that irritating novel, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, I don't know what exactly the Junior League is or who gets to join it, but every spring the charitable ladies hold a huge rummage sale in our city and since N. was born, this has become a sacred event on our spring calendar. We buy kids’ clothes, shoes, and books, and N. shops for toys. We go on Saturday morning when the admission price is reasonable, but this means the really choice toys have already been snapped up by shoppers who can stand the Friday night crowds. N. loves picking out a few trucks for 50 c. each, even though they are often half-broken and he already owns about a zillion trucks. We are very wary of the culture of consumption and especially of the way that kids are so effectively targeted by marketing so we avoid taking N. on shopping errands (except for the grocery store, farmers’ market, and hardware store); he has never been to the mall or a toy store (the unintended but predictable consequence of this is of course that The Mall and Toys R Us loom large in his imagination, and if they come up in conversation he asks me all about what these mysterious places are like! That’s okay; they are far more amazing in his mind than they could ever be in real life). I have found the tenet of Radical Unschooling that recommends saying “yes” to children’s desires and resisting the knee-jerk impulse to say “no” very liberating and rewarding in many areas of my parenting, but I do not feel bound to say “yes” to desires incited by corporations whose interest is solely their own profit. That’s why we don’t take N. shopping and also one of the reasons we don’t watch TV (maybe I’ll say more about TV some other time). Thanks to the Junior League, the poor child is not entirely deprived of the experience of shopping for toys for himself.

At this year’s Junior League Rummage Sale, N. got three trucks and a Barbie to add to those he already has (whom he has named Iris, Linda, Myrtle, and Violet – the new girl is Tulip. Maybe I’ll write about the Barbies in some future post as well.). Together we also picked out books, though I reserve the right to veto books featuring licensed characters for the same reasons discussed above, with the notable exception of Thomas The Train (another topic for a future post!) whose original stories snuck into our house a year or so ago thanks to an officious neighbor and turned out not to be quite as insidious as I expected. I like buying books at the rummage sale because the selection is so bizarre and unpredictable (though I do steer clear of any Terrifying Nixon-Era Children’s Books). As you can see, we came up with a truly eclectic group of books this time:
 So far, N.’s favorites are Sunken Treasure, a fascinating book about expeditions to recover a seventeenth-century Spanish ship, and the book about France, which feeds his current interest in old buildings. I am pleased that N. loves what he calls “Information Books” (i.e. non-fiction) as much as story-books. I have no memory of having non-fiction read to me as a child (though this may be inaccurate) and in later elementary and junior high school I was proudly averse to non-fiction, which I claimed was boring, though I was a voracious fiction reader. My prejudice against non-fiction was just one of the many irrational, strong opinions I cultivated as a young person under the mistaken impression that being opinionated in this way marked me out as a distinctive thinker, as gifted. In contrast, N.'s appreciation for Information Books gives him food for truly deep thinking, and the word “boring” is barely in his vocabulary. Of course, he’s only four and a half, but I hope he continues to find the world so interesting as he grows older.

1 comment:

Emily said...

We definitely need a Barbie post, and I'd like to see a pic of Tulip please!