Mike Ruby

Mike Ruby

I always look forward to the newspaper comic strips and have followed some of the same ones for decades. One of my favorites is Dennis the Menace, published daily since March 1951. I hope I don’t turn into a “Mr. Wilson," Dennis’ neighbor who is retired, not very ambitious, and easily irritated by little kids in the neighborhood.

The July 11, 2017, comic strip shows Dennis cleaning his room under the supervision of his watchful Dad, Henry. There are toys all over the floor and Dennis is struggling to cram all of them in his toy chest but they won’t fit. Frustrated, he exclaims to his dad, “It’s not that I have too many toys … I just have a small toy chest.” No, Dennis, you have too many toys.

Several years ago, Jo Anne and I attended a birthday party for a toddler. The little girl was placed on the living room floor, surrounded by mounds of brightly colored packages, carefully wrapped with bright bows and ribbons. Within minutes, she lost interest in opening the packages but the adults kept forcing more gifts upon her, snapping pictures, and exclaiming how cute the gifts and birthday child were. It was nauseating.

In countless American homes, children have an overabundance of toys. They are piled high, stashed on shelves, crammed in closets and under the bed, and stockpiled in corners throughout the house. When there is no more room, large bins are purchased to store the toys in the basement or garage.

When children learn their supply of toys is endless, it’s natural for them to develop an entitlement mentality at an early age. Their desires change as they grow older, but the entitlement mentality is deeply ingrained. It's not a healthy outlook on life as they reach adulthood.

Family members and friends can show unconditional love for a child without the heaping of material possessions. I feel sorry for children who have numerous toys. The child is being crippled by well-intentioned, loving adults.

We can control the amount of stuff a child receives. Substituting some gifts with our time and attention is a healthy alternative. Let’s not contribute to an entitlement mentality in children; society already has an overabundance of adults with this attitude.

The holiday shopping season will soon begin. Consider putting a limit on the number of brightly colored packages under the tree and shower the child (or adult) with love and individual attention, things no amount of money can buy.

Mike Ruby is a Muscatine resident who writes a monthly column for the Journal.

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