Kids toys...I am not entirely sure how they seem to expand and multiply when we are sleeping but they do!
A few "hand-me downs" are kindly gifted, a birthday passes, a grandparent sees something they think a child might like and before you know it the toys are falling off the shelves...again!
Over the years, I have developed a system that works really well for us. Eventually Grant got on board too. He has Bower bird tendancies. ;)
I'm a big believer in including kids where possible, though there are times I de-clutter a little as I’m tiding, but only things I know are broken or rubbish. I strongly believe this is their home, they are their toys and belongings and they need to have autonomy over their own things I believe if they are going to grow into adults who respect and care for their possessions.
Firstly, we are very matter of fact about life in this house. We have explained their privilege to them, and continue to teach them about this. We educate them about other countries, about our own country. We have shown them pictures of how other families live and we try and help them develop the natural empathy, kindness and love for others that children innately poses. Not in a way that guilt's them, but instead we use it as a tool to empower them to see how they can help children like them, who are not as lucky as we are. To show them they can make a difference, even though they are small. We make it a celebratory time. I talk about how happy another child will be to receive such a special toy, how happy a parent will be to be able to find good toys for their children and how the money that is raised will go to buying Christmas hampers and so forth.
We talk about keeping only what we use and really love. That way it makes cleaning up faster, and we are happier as we get to do more fun things together. I re-assure them that I will never throw out or donate something they love of they say "no". I respect that this is their home.
And you know what? They truly get it. We go through everything and pick it up and ask if we can donate it. We chat about if they want to pick it up, if they want it taking up the limited space on the shelves, if they still actually play with it or if they have out-grown it and what it might look like.
This is not a conversation we have twice a year, its simply how our family approaches "stuff" in an everyday and ordinary manner. We focus on what we have, what we love and what we truly want in our house. After that, the rest is generally easy to let go.
I think if we want to grow mindful adults, we need to challenge and grow mindful children. In a time where child hood and parenting is made into such a complex situation, I find it helpful to simply step out of all the hype, the "must haves" the parenting experts and just chill. These days when everything is measured and critiqued, "educational" and getting ahead is pushed and shoved down our throats.
When we focus on the benefits of donating and how great the kids are doing - it makes the entire process pretty easy. I have a folder for paintings and special things. But fortunately the boys are pretty good at letting stuff go. I don’t think it is an accident they are. We have worked hard to build consistent and persistent attitudes around this subject.
That’s the key to most parenting problems with very young children isn’t it? Consistency and persistency. In whatever form it takes that aligns with your parenting style.
The toy situation in the western world is not now nor has it ever actually been about the development of the child, its generally about a company’s bottom line. Toy companies work hard to get us to depend on their "knowledge" and products.
Here is a little story for you - I’m on a tangent but bare with me.
I was walking in Big W the other day to buy a new washing basket. I generally avoid the shops at all costs. But mine was well and truly broken and ran a risk of snagging my clothes. So off I toddled, annoyed that "nothing lasts these days". I was walking to the isle and I heard a group of three middle aged adults taking about the "washing machine specialist" who had advised them that the "ONLY" good washing powder to use was a particular expensive brand. I was highly amused and saddened at the same time.
This "specialist" is not a true specialist. He was not someone who built and repaired washing machines, who cared about maintaining a good working machine. It was a salesman, who sold new washing machines who most likely worked in affiliation with said expensive brand washing powder.
Companies name these people "specialists" as if to raise them up above us. To make us believe that they must know better then we do, and when did the turn of phrase "specialist" begin getting applied to salesmen? I always thought a specialist was someone highly trained, highly experienced in a field. You know, like a brain surgeon or something like that.
And another thing, when did the simple task of washing clothes become so "complex" and expensive that we need a "specialist" to teach us how to do it "right'?! Pfffft.....What a load of absolute rubbish.
But that is the power of marketing and consumerism. These three smart people had been brain washed by the system. Then I got sad. Sad that this kind of information is rife today. Sad that parents get told similar lies about products they "need" for their children, sad that so many people buy into it unknowingly and it brings them nothing but financial strain, anxiety, stress and a feeling of in-adequacy.
So, as we approach this season of excess. Let’s look around, lets donate good quality children’s toys in time for Christmas for those that have less. Let’s be mindful about the items we bring into our lives, into our homes and the message they send our children. Lets give less"stuff" and give more of ourselves. Let’s be confident in our skills and that our children more than likely have "enough" just as it is. They are always watching and learning from our behaviour.
Grant and I have decided not to give each other Christmas presents, and that has been the case for most of the year. There is truly nothing we want, what a blessed life we have. In our run down little old ramshackle cottage. Our gift in this season is love, presence and mindfulness. That to me is the true spirit of Christmas.