Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Stuff"

A few weeks ago I asked Mr. Bug to pick up one of his toys that was in the middle of the kitchen floor. He didn't. Then I explained to him that if he was not willing to put his toys where they belong, I would have to throw them out.

You know what that turkey said?

"You can frow it out, mom." And then he walked away.

So, naturally, I threw it out.

But it pained me. If it was some silly McDonald's toy I wouldn't have cared. Or even if it was another one of his "stand alone" toys, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash. But this was not a stand alone. This toy was just one piece to a larger toy. And now, in my mind, that toy is forever ruined. He can never put the whole toy together again.

And I don't like this.

Lest you think this is just another one of those "weird things about me" posts, I should tell you that I had always had a reason to be picky about keeping pieces to sets. They make the toy more likely to sell at a garage sale.

And I say that I HAD a reason. Because, while it may be true that "complete" toys will sell at a garage sale, I have made up my mind that we won't be selling much of our stuff anymore. At least never enough to make an entire garage sale. The reasoning is simple: almost all of the stuff we have has been given to us. 95% of the kids' toys and probably a greater percentage of their clothes have been given to us. Something just doesn't feel right to me about selling stuff that was given to us. So, if we are going to get rid of it, we are going to give it to someone else.

And the only reason I mention this is to say that I no longer have my standard reason for wanting to keep toy sets intact. So why did it bother me so much to throw out that toy?

Well, I didn't think much about it until yesterday when my kids went to a birthday party where there was a pinata. The last time I was at a party with Ms. Boo where there was a pinata, I had to push her into the swarming mass of kids to try and get her to put some candy in her bag. She was kind of timid.

I figured the same thing would happen again. But, I was tending to Bao, so I was not able to give her any gentle shoves.

As it turns out, Boo has wised up quite a bit since I last saw her collect pinata treats.

She came back with a favor bag FULL of candy. "Look mom! Look at all the candy I got."

And my only thought was we'll just add that to all the Easter candy...

Then, Bug came bounding up, with the same joyful expression and thrust his bag into my hands. With that high-pitched voice he reserves for moments of sheer excitement, he said, "look what I got mom!"

I looked in the bag to find a whopping three pieces of candy.

I gave Bug the same expressions of excitement that I gave to Boo. But inside, my heart felt sad. Why?

He was the littlest one there. Could it be he got pushed around a little? Then again, he is sort of in his own world most of the time, maybe he just didn't get clued in fast enough. Either way, I felt so sad. Sad that my son didn't get more stuff.

Though I have seen the opposite to be true in my own life, I think that when it comes to my kids, I have bought into the lie that they won't be happy unless they have enough stuff. And when it comes to that toy - he would never remember the toy again if it had been a "stand alone" toy. But somehow I am believing that he will be so disappointed the next time he wants to put that whole toy together, only to realize that he can't. I think this is one of the things that makes me want to hold on to stupid stuff.

The interesting thing is, Bug was playing with that toy the other day and didn't seem to notice that a piece was missing. And you know what? He didn't know any better that he did not have as much candy as everyone else. He was just excited to have what he got. (And Boo has been happily sharing hers.) Yet when I should have been overjoyed that he was content, I was sad for him.

And frazzled too. Because in addition to candy we had masks and blowers to bring home as favors. And I found myself almost frantic over the thought of one of them leaving without their stuff. Because I knew they'd get home and be upset if they didn't have it. But instead of helping them to develop some basic coping skills and "get over it," I would only know how to be sad for them too! So, because I can't help them deal, I make the problem worse by teaching them that they should be frantically chasing after their stuff. This way I don't have any upset kids to deal with. (Does that makes sense?)

Now, I am not a major lover of stuff in general. Clothes, shoes, home decor, TVs, stereos, cars... none of them have allured me to any great degree. But that doesn't mean that I am totally free from "stuff love." I also don't know how to teach my kids to be content with less stuff, and to hold on loosely to what they have.

Any advice out there?

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

Sorry, no advice for teaching the little-uns' however...

Shopping at our favorite store (Valley Thrift on Woodman) really drove the point home not too long ago. Mrs. Cup-a-Joe and I realized that most of the junk they sell is from estates... translation: dead peoples' stuff.

While that might seem gross to some people, I have found it rather liberating. Someday I am going to "shuffle off this mortal coil" as Shakespeare put it, and then someone is going to root through all of my accumulated junk. So the junk is only here for the journey and later it is piled up on a thrift store shelf.

Mon Apr 24, 06:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Cindy said...

On the surface, my reasons for making sure they always have their stuff, look really good. You know, I'm trying to teach responsibility,stewardship, etc. That's what good moms do, right ?But too often the deeper, secret reality is my own self-focus.I don't want to deal with my kids falling apart and just how do I teach basic coping skills anyway? I'm tired, they need fed again, the dishes are piled and so is the laundry... so I can't handle a crisis over stuff, so I think.
OR can I ? How does all that work with Luke 9:23& 24 and being PRESENT?

Mon Apr 24, 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Addie said...

I'm like this, but not just with stuff. One week, my daughter forgot her snack for school, I drove up their with my two little ones, plus a friends little boy and dropped it off for her. Instead of letting her realize what forgetting it had caused.

I'm always frantic over puzzle pieces and game pieces for the same reasons you were over the McD's toy. Instead of being 'present' with them (as you mentioned earlier) and teaching them the proper way to take care of their things, I just do it myself.

:P Sorry no advice.

Mon Apr 24, 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I understand not wanting to throw anything away. For me it's that I spent money on it and then I have the whole guilt that it's wasteful.

Perhaps you should try a different approach. You said that he didn't seem to notice that the piece was missing, so then he didn't learn the lesson by you throwing it away.

Try putting it in a bag and then drive the kids down to a shelter and make the kids hand over the toys to the other kids.

My dad took me to a homeless shelter to work an entire Thanksgiving when I was around twelve. I swear to you, I rememeber that entire day like it was yesterday. It really taught me something about needs.

Mon Apr 24, 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Shalee said...

I applaud you for sticking my your words. Believe it or not, it will matter because you are showing them that you mean what you say.

We are striving to teach our kids that it is not "our stuff" anyway. We feel that it ultimately is God's since He owns everything anyway. If we lose that "mine" sentimentality then it easier to give it away to someone who needs it.

I agree with Heather; the handing over will make them appreciate never seeing it again and it will make them appreciate what they do have.

Mon Apr 24, 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger BooMama said...

I love Heather's idea - a great lesson in need vs. want.

You know, it's easy to let one child scream if he forgets his stuff or loses it...but I can't imagine dealing with two or three kids and trying to keep up with all of their stuff. Y'all are some mighty good women indeed. I doubt I'd have the presence of mind to throw away OR put away toys...I think I'd just sprawl out in the middle of the floor and drool while they ran in circles around me. :-)

Mon Apr 24, 07:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very insightful evaluation. I think you have come full circle in your thinking and it is interesting me to read about it.

Angel

Tue Apr 25, 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

In reference to the shelters not getting back to you about Christmas...

I know the guy that runs the Gospel Mission in Dayton, and holidays are booked for churches to help out YEARS IN ADVANCE!! I was shocked when he told me that, but none-the-less, it is true.
If you want to help out, pick some random week-day to do it, and I'm sure they will be greatful for the help.

You can view the Gospel Mission website at the following address
http://www.gospelmissiondayton.org/

Wed Apr 26, 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

I've soooooooooo been there on the toy issue. I've done the same thing: had to stick by my threat when the kid called my bluff! I used to do the ninja purge: get rid of toys the kids weren't appreciating when they were away, so that I could avoid enduring a fit on their part.

Now we take extra stuff together to the Salvation Army. I'm hoping they'll realize at some point how liberating it is to shed stuff and bless someone else with it.

I'm also hoping we can cut down on the amount of stuff that comes into this house (mostly from well-meaning relatives and friends) in the first place! It's a sticky issue in our materialistic culture.

Tue Mar 20, 10:01:00 AM  

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