Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Rational Talk with Children

Let’s see…less than 2 months until Rationing Day. A few weeks ago it became very clear that we needed to start the R Day discussion with our girls, ages 6 and 8. Egads. These girls, thankfully, are not fully stuffed with the buy-this attitude that corporate America is forcing down the throat of their generation. But they are natural consumers. This could turn into a not-so-pretty talk. More than once the husband and I exchanged "we really need to talk to the girls about this" comments, but instead of getting to it we drug our feet. At the end of the conversation would they be like those doe-eyed kids in the WWII posters, lovingly supporting home front limitations? Or demon-eyed banshees set on sabotaging the experiment? In light of these concerns we did what any other parents would do: we headed to our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant to butter them up on chips and salsa before hitting them with the big stuff.

In between savory bites we revisited the (often-discussed in our house) idea that while some people have more than us, many many more people in this world have much less; less access to safe drinking water, less healthy food, less availability of quality jobs, less opportunity for education and so on. This is a fairly consistent discussion in our house and the girls have used that discussion as a springboard for donating to the Heifer Project on more than one occasion. So, they were totally with us on this part of the conversation. Now for the history lesson…

We segued into a lesson about WWII and what a big and important war it was. Again, this was not a completely new concept for the girls because, 1) we’re history nerds and have spoken to the girls about it before and 2) the story of Molly in the American Girl series of book takes place during WWII and the girls have read at least one of Molly’s books. Thanks, Molly. We talked about how people in American tried to use only their share (their “ration”) so that the army and soldiers could use the rest to fight the war. And people did it, mostly willingly, because the cause was just that important. Okay, their eyes may have glazed over at one point during the history lesson but in all the girls did a valiant job staying with the speech.

Finally, it was time to interweave the bits together with our journey. Over melted cheese and refried beans we explained that for one year our family will live on those same WWII rations (or the modern equivalent) to show people that they can live with less, and maybe even should live with less - especially if it means that others who need it can have more. The others may be people trying to scrape together a daily existence or groups of people trying to help right environmental wrongs. Either way, we are going to be making some big changes. Reduced gasoline usage, reduced meat consumption (we’re not a big meat household to begin with), limited processed foods and few purchases of new items. And then we waited…and waited…and waited. The girls said they were fine with the decision. Really. No protests. A few simple questions, but no pouty lips or folded arms. Maybe they were drunk on queso, but they seemed to accept the plan just fine.

Since then we’ve pointed out some things that we will and won’t be during out rationing year; we WILL be walking more and making some certain foods from scratch rather than from a box, we WON'T be eating out more than once (maybe twice) a month and we WON’T be going on extended road-trip vacations. And still, so far, so good. The other day our older daughter, P., declared in a noticeably sour tone, “My birthday will be when we’re rationing!” Ah, someone’s been thinking. Her birthday is in January and will be our first big family event after rationing has begun. I explained that we’ll save up our sugar to make sure we have plenty to make whatever cake or sweets she wants, and that we may be able to make some concessions for gifts others are giving her. After all, we don’t want the girls to feel like they’re being punished. I also pointed out that every one of us will be having a birthday during the rationing year, so fair is fair.

While we plan on upping our charitable giving during the next year, the husband and I have thrown around the idea of using some of the unspent funds from the year of rationing (unspent from less gas usage, less eating out and fewer purchases of new shiny things) to go towards a big, fun family vacation. The kind that requires a week off of work and sunscreen and maybe even hotel rooms. For those of you who know us, you understand what a big deal this would be. Typically, our vacations consist of short camping trips or quick tours through cities were we crash on friends’ floors. As much as we love those types of trips, the idea of a nice family escape might be enough to keep us all (children and adults) in line during the rationing year.

I hope.

--Rational Mama


  1. drunk on queso---love it!! your girls are so sweet- it's easy to imagine that they handled this well. your willingness to put forth the effort to get through a year of WWII rationings is great and inspirational. i'm hoping to learn from you and copy cat! and the vacation idea sounds very awesome. that's what i'd need at the end of something that could be pretty tiring. HOW FUN!! by the way, i'm needing some coffee sometime soon!

  2. Oh no - I could use the name and address of your Mexican restaurant. My husband started reading your blog. And this morning as I drove him to work he told me tha he was under n circumstances going to try living like it was WWII for a year. But I might have managed to get him to agree to try rationing gas (he reaoned that I was only punishing myself) - LOL. I'm so excited to see how your year goes. And hopefully we'll be joining you - at least in part!

  3. Anisa - Your family already does so much, I can understand your husband's hesitations. We're not even entirely sure what we've gotten ourselves in to! Gasoline is a good place to start, at the least. Thanks for all your encouragement!