Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Have it Your Way

If you're as old as me or older, you may remember the old Burger King "Have it Your Way" advertisement campaign.  It seems innocent enough.  We all want to customize our lives.  To solidify our individuality.  What's the harm in that, right?

A little more than a year back in the States after living Africa with my four kids, where they had it any way it damn well came.  I can tell you, there is harm in that.  And I tell you that after observing my children both with and without.   The downside to having it exactly the way you want it, is knowing how the hell you want it in the first place.  And the upside  of going without is being happy with what you do have.

Knowing how you want it means considering a considerable number of options these days.

When I was growing up, sharing a station wagon with 5 other siblings meant you were squished and uncomfortable for hours on end.  That was a given.  If it was a hot day and the window was open, your hair would fly in your mouth.  If you were sitting next to a sister, their hair could also be in your mouth, blown in by the hot August air and the fact that my parents never bought a car with any extras like air conditioning.

It was uncomfortable, which was no surprise,  and one accepted it.  Because there wasn't another choice.  Well, besides my dad stopping the car to make sure you knew there wasn't another choice.  So really, no other choice.

Today, I am the owner of a top of the line minivan with a DVD player, adjustable seats, and enough elbow room for each kid. And I hate it.  Because my kids "needs" have increased  with the increased options.  The chair needs to be adjusted to just the right angle, as does the heat and/or air.  They are obsessed about the song on the radio, and are intolerant of any songs they don't personally care for.  Even if their sibling does.  And let me just confirm that all of their conflicting song choices suck by the way.  Because none of it is anything I want to listen to.

When I was growing up, the radio played the news.  That was it. And no matter how many times we heard that news story repeat throughout the day, we were going to hear it again. In the car.  Throughout the house.  And while eating dinner.

Growing up in a large Catholic family, I didn't have a whole bunch of choices.  And looking back now, I'm really grateful for that.  I didn't spend my time wanting.  I spent it outside with the minimum amount of stuff.  An air rifle to shoot mud at my siblings and a pair of stilts.  What else do you need?

I feel sorry for the kids of this generation and the constant choices that they have.  Really, think about how many choices they have during their day.  Between food, entertainment and electronics alone. Because when you have too many choices it becomes overwhelming.  And completely stressful.

Of course my kids don't see any of this.  But I do. Not only do I witness it everyday through them.  But, I feel it in me too.

And I long for the simplicity and not having it my way, but any way it comes. And adjusting my expectations and prioritizing what is worth stressing about. Instead of stressing about everything.

Cause when you get down to it, there's not that much that's truly worth the anxiety.

And we all deserve to be happy.

ADDENDUM;  If you know me from way back in high school, no I didn't work at Burger King.  For the umpteenth time, that was Michelle Nolan.  Yes, we were both quiet brunettes and shared the same initials and we sat next to each other in homeroom.  However, I worked at McDonalds. She worked at Burger King.  We are not the same person.  Which probably only added to the confusion.  But, have it your way and believe what you want.


joeh said...

Brilliant! I have often voice a similar opinion. Choice creates controversy.

I have my burgers their way...then I scrape off the pickle and onions.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

You are the rare parent who takes kids where they must learn to appreciate what comes their way. And I bet some of them will rediscover the beauty of that. One day when I had been thinking along these same lines, I counted the different kinds of mustard on the shelf at the high end grocery store where I like to shop: 37! I decided that was a good symbol of choice overload, but I still shop there because, um, it gives me more choices. Truly a mixed blessing.

The Loerzels said...

@Joeh-I like the way you think!
@BOG-I agree, a mixed blessing indeed. Everything is a study in contradiction. Like the yin and yang of mustard.

Sara said...

This is great post! I feel very fortunate that my kids are growing up in this lovely country where there is virtually no choice because every single market and store carries the same thing as the other, except for the random Marjane overstock acquisition of German greeting cards or generic brand American gum. I know your kids complained a lot about being here, but I have no doubt they'll reflect on their time here as such sweet simplicity. In the meantime, whenever they complain threaten to send them to stay with us for a while ;)

Deborah Haley said...

Thank you! said...

Um... McDonalds- I remember the first one that opened up on Hempstead Turnpike. When it advertised 15 cent hamburgers to those speeding by.... But, Burger King came much later- long after I left the confines (ha!) of Long Island...
And, since neither was (unless one is in Israel) kosher, they never offered ANYTHING my way!
Talk about no choices- try that regimen...

Sine said...

And for what it's worth, I also worked at McDonald's. Went straight there when it first opened up in my small German hometown. To this date, it's the only American fast food joint there, I think.

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