Ticky Tacky Boxes

My sister is in the process of applying to preschools for her daughter in New York City. In a city where the average income is 30,337 and the average daycare rate is 32,344, how this actually adds up remains a mystery to me.

When I was young (which, relatively, wasn't that long ago), we didn't go to preschool. We didn't even go to pre-K. We either had a family member or a neighbour or a babysitter take care of us until we were 5 or 6, when we headed off to regular local schools to which we didn't have to apply because it just depended on which one was closest to your house.

And I have to say: I didn't turn out so bad. I still managed to get through high school and college quite successfully, and ended up with a pretty decent career. I have thus far lived a fantastic life. I’ve travelled around the world. I’ve volunteered in another country. I’ve established myself as a poet. I’ve started my own businesses. I’ve reached out to my fellow human. I’ve been a good person.

So what is it about the competitive culture we have created that makes us think our children will turn out better than us if we spend more money on them? And what, exactly, does "better" entail? Does it involve just dishing out cash for things? Tons of toys, anti-social electronics, an education that doesn't even show up on your resume (imagine all the job-seekers out there name-dropping what preschool they went to)? What is it that makes us so vulnerable to the perceived academic achievement of our 2-year olds? Why do we feel the need to spend like the Joneses?

I think it comes back to the notion of perfection.

We want our kids to have "the best". But what is the best? And what does it mean to be the best? To have the best?

I’m reminded of a song/poem that was taught to me in elementary school called Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds (I went to a mediocre, non-ivy league school in the burbs of the south shore of Montreal, so that might explain my exposure to said poetry). The chorus of the song goes like this: And they're all made out of ticky tacky / And they all look just the same. (I’ve included the poem below for anyone interested in reading it before you continue.)

And that's how I feel a lot of the time. Like the ones who believe in ivy league and money-buys-happiness end up essentially buying a box of a life. We’ve all heard the saying "think outside the box". Well, it might just be because we've been convinced to be confined to live inside a box our whole life. Not only do we live in a box (apartment, house), we stare at a box (TV, computer), and we mainly communicate through a box (computer, cell phone). Maybe it’s those with "unconventional" upbringings - the home-schooled, the not-ivy-league-pre-schooled, the local-college-educated kids - that make something greater of themselves. That don't rely on money and status to achieve greatness. Do we really want kids that are just like all the other kids? Do we really believe so strongly in homogeneity? Is fitting in all that matters anymore? Is the packaging greater than the gift?

But if most of us don't believe in conformity, why do we insist on perpetuating the status quo? What if we all stopped competing towards someone else's idea of what constitutes "the best", and instead started striving toward our own? How would life change? How would your life change?

A friend once reminded me that in 150 years, no one alive today will exist.

So who are you competing against? And will it even matter? 

Today, try to step away from preconceived notions, from the things that make you uncomfortable, from the things that stress you out just so you can keep up with the Joneses. Step outside the ticky tacky box. There’s a whole world out there living on their own terms.

Live on your own terms.


Little boxes, by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,

And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,

And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

1 comment:

  1. I have this poem memorized. It's the theme song for Weeds. hahahaha