Two days after Black Friday and the day before Cyber Monday, I held a Socrates Cafe with oldest daughter Cali on the question, “Is shopping good?” You can see it here.

Even though Cali is a fan of the commercial product for kids, Shopkins — which unabashedly trains kids to become shopping fanatics, shop til you droppers, starting at an early age — unlike most kids, she makes her Shopkins characters by hand. Over 20 of them are featured in the video. Now she has moved on to another crass commercial product, Num Noms, and has uncrassed and uncommercialized them by making them by hand.

Cali makes toy kits of a very intelligent very – ones that allow you, for instance, to create your own TV channel or radio program or high tech device — by hand, and has even some some at the local plaza. All of them, though, she makes out of love and passion, and mostly gives away at birthday parties (along with handmade cards) and at Christmas (at the large family get-together last year, her gifts were the most wowed about and used, while the store-purchased stuff was mostly ignored).

Surely Cali’s mom, my lovely Ceci, is in considerable part responsible for this. But Cali is also a great teacher. She even taught me, Mr. Impatient himself, with great patience and solicitude how to knit with my fingers.  She’s knitting bracelets, belts, and bookmarks for family and friends. Now I’m in the throes of making a bookmark too. I’m proud. For a guy who failed a summer arts and crafts class when he was a kid, what she accomplished with me was no small feat.


Here’s what I have to say on such matters in The Philosophy of Childing

The well-known political theorist Benjamin Barber would not agree with me. In Consumed for whom, the political theorist asks us to picture a universe made up of and run by “infantilized” people. If you go along with his characterization, ours would be one in which adults were governed by appetite, for whom self-aggrandizement and self-gratification is all. Barber claims America today is a nation operated by adults behaving just like this – “kidults” he calls them — poster children for crass and gluttonous consumption driven by out-of-control commercial markets. He argues that adults the country over, by failing to comport themselves little if any better than infants, are triggering our country’s downfall. Our only hope for survival is for them – or put another way, us — to quit this asinine nonsense.

…Aristotle surely would have agreed with Barber that adults acting in an age-inappropriate way fit this definition. But is adults’ behavior in fact infantile? Or is it an abysmal form of ‘adultishness,’ and of pot-calling-the-kettle-black-itis to boot? Just because an adult fails to act like a responsible grown-up is no cause to impugn kids. Irresponsible adults are just that. Leave kids out of it; enough scapegoating already. Why liken adults behaving badly to the conduct of a child or an infant? Why equate their excessive wantonness and waywardness to the run-of-the-mill behavior of youngsters? Whenever adults spend beyond their means, are mindlessly voracious consumers, throw virtue to the wind, whenever they have a temper tantrum, why not call a spade a spade and leave kids out of it?

If my own daughter Cali and some of her friends are any indication, children can at times be unequalled in exercising discipline and willpower. My daughter regularly thwarts my attempts to buy something for her when we’re out and about. She much prefers to make things – books, cards, kites, stuffed animals, fairy wings — than buy them, since that would mean that others are doing the imagining and creating for her. When I gave her a Valentine’s card, she gently remonstrated me. “Daddy, why didn’t you make one?” It leaves me scratching my head in amazement how few manufactured products she desires compared to most adults I know (including me). She is far from ‘infantilized.’ Is my daughter an anti-consumerist, do-it-yourself saint? Nope. She likes her new skates, her Barbie sneakers and dolls, her Polo summer dress. She likes even more buying, and selling, at consignment stores, because she likes “to give things a second and third life.”

She’s certainly given new dimension to my life — learning to make something by hand was good for my soul, and my esteem (I’d always thought I was a dunce at such things) – and to that of many others with whom she freely shares her beautiful handmade wares and even shows how to make them themselves if they have interest. That’s my girl.