A couple of years ago, when we would plan to go out on weekends, we would invariably end up in malls. It was convenient. There are clean washrooms, there are places to eat, there are places of interest for each one of us, there’s a perceived idea of safety; so why not! We would also invariably end up buying a few things which would, on the face it, look what we needed; like groceries (now everyone knows when you go to a hyper market to buy vegetables, you don’t just buy vegetables, right?), a few clothes on Sale (because if you are getting something worth 1000 bucks at 500 or 3 t-shirts for the price of 2, it’s a steal); and then we would be tired and hungry after walking from one end of the mall to the other multiple times (because the bigger the malls, the better), so we would eat at the mall even when we didn’t like the mall food and not quite getting what we really wanted to eat. While driving back home, the child would be ‘acting out’ (because he didn’t get open space and sunshine, and wasn’t allowed to touch things inside shops), we would be lamenting about all the unnecessary stuff we bought and the amount of money we ended up spending, and we would be more tired than running a 10K. So, another weekend would go by in regret.
When I started incorporating Minimalism into my lifestyle, the purpose of visiting Malls seemed redundant. I started feeling selfish about taking my child to mall and orienting him to this consumerist culture which doesn’t aids his growth and well being. It wasn’t doing much for him, it was just a lazy option for me to take him to where I will get a parking, and all the things of my convenience. I wanted to make efforts to break that cycle.
There are a lot of issues in exposing kids only to malls:
Malls promote consumerism. It promotes the idea that you need to spend a lot of money to be happy. You have to spend money if you spend time in malls. Either you’ll buy something (clothes, books, groceries, etc) or eat something or experience something (gaming zones or movies). You cannot just go there and not spend money. You can do that but doesn’t happen (at the least you will pay the exorbitant parking charges).
Let us admit it, a mall is an unreal world. It is super-sanitized, no sunshine, no fresh air and no places to run around. Kids will always prefer a park to a mall, unless we have conditioned their choices so much that they start preferring the malls. I understand that it is easier for us to take them to a safe and hygienic place but it’s not real. By paying 500 bucks and letting our children play an hour into the soft play area with no sunshine and fresh air, we are actually doing them disfavor. Those dungeon-like gaming zones are even worse. They are claustrophobic and dangerous (considering they have just one exit).
Since everything is expensive in a mall, only certain kinds of people can afford spending time there. So, by taking our kids to malls all the time, we are exposing them only to people who have money. When they watch everyone carrying huge shopping bags, it creates a false perception of society. In that sense, parks are great levelers.
No doubt, malls are attractive places. It takes efforts and resolve to break away from them. When kids get used to that kind of environment, they don’t want to go to the real world. But once you start going to non-Mall places, you will only choose a park or a museum over a mall.
Having said that, taking them to malls once in a while is not bad, anything done excessively and repeatedly is.
Do share your views on this – pro Mall or not.
In my next post, I will write about non-Mall places to visit in Pune, from my own experience.