Why I won’t give our children the best

I treasure my childhood.  It was full of building cubby houses out of tree branches in the bush, skipping rocks across dams, eating homemade iceblocks in the sunshine, making pretend toast out of kangaroo poo, climbing trees and sitting for hours as high up as we could go, making forts with sheets and cushions, riding bikes, skipping ropes, going for rain walks, making dolls houses out of piles of books, using recycling to make the furniture and collecting figurines from cereal boxes to play with in the houses.  In-fact, apart from a few soft toys, and a couple of dolls and Lego, I don’t remember having many toys.  What I do remember was the wonderful times we had adventuring, exploring and being a family.  For a time, my most treasured possessions (and yes, I know, it’s strange!) were a box of rocks and sticks I collected.  I learned early on to make do with what we had, to be creative and imaginative, and to be thankful and grateful.  For birthdays we would get clothes that we needed and one or two other special things and Christmas was usually the same.  My childhood wasn’t really full of things and stuff and I remember feeling like we used to miss out a bit, but now that I look back I’m really grateful for the way my childhood panned out.  What we did have was the chance to be imaginative and creative, the opportunity to explore and not take things for granted.  My childhood was full of laughter, games, learning, discovering, helping and possibilities.  I’m grateful that my parents taught me the difference between want and need, the value of things, and most importantly how much more valuable time with family and friends is than any material possession.

My husband and I became really aware of how easy it could be to become thingy and possessive about material possessions last year at Christmas time, and that’s when we decided on a few things.  Now we are definitely not against giving gifts.  In-fact, I love giving presents!  However, we didn’t want gifts to be the most amazing thing about Christmas and birthdays.  I think sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in trying to be the best parents you can be by giving your children everything they want, and as much as it’s a wonderful perk (and it really is! I love seeing our children’s faces light up when they open up their presents) we don’t want it to become the focus of the day.  Birthdays are about celebrating life – your life, your children’s lives- the most beautiful gift!

Today was my son’s third birthday and today we built a new birthday tradition for our children.  Part way through they day, after he had opened his presents and played with them for a while, we went to his bedroom and picked out a handful of toys that he would like to give away to another little person for no other reason than to bless them.  So here’s why.  Firstly, we want to teach them to hold their possessions loosely – we want them to be able to look after what they have, but not be owned by it.  We also want to instill in them generosity, and for them to experience the joy in  giving, while learning that it actually really is more blessed to give than to receive.  Plus, it culls a few toys so they don’t get overloaded with things and stuff!

I believe it is of far greater worth and value to give of our time, our love, and life examples rather than spend hundreds of dollars on toys and things that are of no true worth.  That stuff isn’t important and while it’s nice, I want our children to learn the difference.  We aren’t going to deprive them from those things but we certainly won’t be going overboard.  I love the idea of keeping things simple, and teaching our children through example and experience to be grateful and thankful for what they have.  And guess what, we gave our children singlets for Christmas 😉 purely because we don’t want our children to take the simple things in life for granted, and they also needed them!

I remember Nic’s and my second Christmas together.  He bought me a pair of earrings that were in the shape of fuzzy Christmas trees as a present.  I remember opening them and telling him how incredibly hideous they were, all the while thinking he had gotten them for me as a joke.  Oops! He actually thought it would be ‘festive’ and ‘fun’ for me to have/wear them and was quite upset about my remarks!  Now truthfully, I still think they’re just as awful as when I first set eyes on them, but I wore them that Christmas and I still have them in my jewellery draw because it reminds me of the heart behind the gift.  That’s what I want our children to catch.  A heart that gives with generosity and a heart that receives with gratefulness and thankfulness.

I hope this captures a little of my heart towards this subject.  I don’t have anything against material possessions, but in a time where society puts so much pressure out there to have the best, the latest and the grandest of all things, I want to be able to stay grounded in the fact that you are still just as important and valuable without stuff as you are with stuff.  I want our children to find the best in everything rather than have it served out to them and I want to give our children the best of me rather than the best of everything else.