To have, or not to have. That should have really been the question.
With the holiday season in full swing, and packages showing up at the door on a nearly daily basis, it seems the answer to that would be To Have.
But boy, does that not sit right.
Today, after finding myself staring longingly at a brand new giant shiny suburban who was pumping gas in front of my considerably smaller and less shiny car, I couldn’t help but notice the pang of desire coursing through my veins.
It was so big. And so shiny. “Think of all the things we could put in there!” my inner hoarder squealed, as my outer being took notice of the countless bar wrappers, receipts, sippy cups and assorted toys littering the floor of our perfectly functional, if not much smaller (and cheaper) mini-SUV.
Normally, this tendency to want the bigger, newer, faster thing doesn’t generally appeal to me, and I sincerely find myself being happy with what I already have. In fact, most of the time, rather than desiring to have more, I am scheming ways to have less. Less clothes! Less shoes! Less glassware (am I the only one who swears glasses multiply up there in those cabinets?)!
But if I’m being completely honest, I am really struggling maintaining this policy of less-is-more with the kids.
And not only because they are hoarders. (And hot damn, are they hoarders!)
Really the struggle is born from (admittedly perceived) necessity, and a desire to give them the very best. Not the very best, shiny, newest toy, but the very best chances to develop into the fullest, most well-rounded people they can be.
We have art supplies up the wazoo to help spark our kids’ inner artists. We have books coming out our ears to help develop good readers. We have blocks spilling out of baskets, and Magna-tiles scattered around the floor to encourage whatever part of your brain develops when you build shit, and then deliver a bitchin’ karate chop to knock it down. We have letters on the fridge, and number flash cards, and animal stickers and play-doh, and dolls and a kitchen set and musical instruments and and and…
Every single day I think “This is too much shit. Today I will get rid of half of this shit.” But then the other part of me thinks “This is a totally normal amount of shit. I will not touch this shit.”
And that part keeps winning, because sadly, I think that part is right.
I am certain there are ways to encourage your child to participate in an assortment of activities that would help booster all the different parts of their brains that are waiting to be tapped. You could take them to concerts and museums, and only get books from the library. You could let them use rocks and sticks to practice their building, and mud to do their painting. You could involve them in the kitchen instead of letting them play cook in their tiny kid-sized kitchen that has no less than 100 separate pieces of plastic and wooden food that end up spread all over your house (aaaaaaaaaaaah!).
All of that would work. But it would come at a cost, in every sense of the word.
As appealing as it seems at times, to live in a nearly empty house that isn’t ALWAYS littered with toys and books and broken crayons (by result of making a conscious decision to live this way), ultimately it isn’t for me.
And so I fill my house with books, and blocks, and paint, and dolls, all of which teach different lessons, and all of which are beloved.
Less certainly can be more, and some day we will pare down. But at this stage in the game, stressing less about having more (and being thankful this is even something that I think about) is what I’ll be focusing on this holiday season.
Emily- You are such a great writer! Thanks for making me think about what you say and smile at the same time! I feel the same way about that loud popper toy, too! Merry Christmas to all of your wonderful family!❤️Susan
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Our youngest is 21. We still have the mega collection of mind-building toys you describe, but hidden in neat rows of boxes on shelves. I had gotten into the habit of reminding my spouse that we had planned to get rid of them. But no, they’re staying right here until someone brings me my grandchildren!
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