Commerce encroaches on family traditions

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Laura K. Silver is the mother of two elementary school-age children and a trustee of the Jewish Light who will be blogging for the paper’s website about marriage, child rearing, work, play, volunteering and whatever else is topical or strikes her fancy – she has no shortage of opinions. Silver is a graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is the owner of The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service.

BY LAURA K. SILVER

Each year, I am struck by the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. We spend an entire day counting our blessings, taking account of our lives, and being thankful for what we have, only to follow it up later that evening by shoving people out of the way to get the things we want.

Black Friday has taken on much greater significance over the last 10 years or so, and each year it seems to get a little worse. People used to spend Thanksgiving night together as a family, maybe going to a movie or playing a board game. Now people wait in line at Best Buy beginning at 6 p.m. for a store that opens at midnight. Eat up, Grandpa — we need to get this show on the road. What’s next? Dining al fresco in line?

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The culture we live in is already one of overindulgence and overspending. It seems to me that kids are learning to spend their time with things, not people. Children text their neighbors instead of playing capture the flag with them. They check the weather with their iPods rather than go outside to feel the breeze. They plant fruit on Farmville instead of getting out a trowel and digging in the dirt.

I worry where this leads us as a country. To me, we are creating young people who think that they need the latest gadget the minute it becomes available. We have lines down the block every time Apple launches another product. Sure, I like technology as much as the next person (who doesn’t like shopping in pajamas?) but when it comes to our kids and their “latest and greatest” obsession, when is enough really going to be enough?

This time of year, we hear how “busy” or “crazy” or “hectic” things are. We feed into it by flying out the door, ready to buy our kids another gadget that will be obsolete a year from now. I think it’s time we took a step back, slowed things down, and reevaluated what is really important to us.

I’ll bet that for most of us, it wasn’t found on sale last Friday.