Sunday, August 31, 2014

We Might Need That Someday, or, The Lilies of the Field

I can always tell when Hannah has been in her room unattended, because it looks like a tornado ripped through her clothing drawer. Clean and dirty clothes mingle unashamedly on every imaginable surface, including, on one memorable occasion, the fan blades. It's impossible to tell what belongs with what, what needs to go back in the drawer, and what was worn just long enough for her to wipe her nose on it. Indeed, it seems as though most of her clothes spend more time on the floor or in the hamper then they do on her body. Our laundry basket reflects this, because when I finally get around to washing clothes (which seems to happen way too often and not nearly often enough), I can divide the pile into thirds: two-thirds Hannah, and one-third for the other two girls.
How many clothes does one child need? Three children? My girls each have a drawer full of clothes and they share a closet that is bursting at the seams, but they wear the same favorites every single week (except for Hannah, who wears everything for 30-seconds at a time). For all my lofty talk of not acquiring more stuff, we always seem to have way too many clothes. Someone offers me a bag of hand-me-downs, and I gasp, "Yes, we need those! If Lucy doesn't wear them, I'll save them for Hannah, or for Julia..."After all, my family motto has long been, "I might need that someday." ;-)
Do I really want to be storing clothes for five years, just on the off chance that one of my children could maybe, someday wear them? Elastic wears out, and the worn-out clothing that I save for play time and camping trips will still be ripped and stained the next time I pull it out of the box. The adorable dresses that I so lovingly hoard could be clothing someone else's child right now.
Fear: that's what this really comes down to. I have this fear that as soon as I get rid of an article of clothing, one of my children is going to need it. There's this voice in my head that whispers, "Just you watch - you're going to give away the shorts that Julia never wears, and then there will come a day when she'll rip holes in every pair of shorts she owns, and you're going to wish you'd kept those extra clothes, missy..." Well, I say boo to that little voice, that boogeyman that keeps me clinging to that adorable little sweater from Gymboree, because it was so sweet of so-and-so to give it to us, and maybe the last of my girls will decide that she likes this sweater, even though the other two didn't like it at all. Boo, I say, Boo, to quote Foghorn Leghorn.
Lucy and I were just discussing this the other day. She had broken her toy airplane, and she wanted to know why it had broken. We talked about being careful with her things, but we also talked about how plastic toys usually break pretty quickly. She wanted to know if her wooden toys would last forever, so we talked about how nothing here on earth lasts forever, and how we need to be sure that our lives are filled with the most important things. God has a sense of humor, because if I'd kept reading that passage, I would have found this:
"Why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and see how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown in the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?" Matthew 6: 28-30
There it is: why do you have so little faith? Why do I try and put my confidence in cute little dresses from Osh-Kosh and Children's Place, rather than clothing myself in faith? It's time for me to open my hands and trust that God will give us enough, rather than trying to provide for myself. It's time for me to remember all the times when He has been faithful to our family and to the people I love, rather than being scared of what tomorrow might bring. It is time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Daughter is Not a Commercial, or, A Battle Lost

Lucy and I went to the local big box store to buy some last minute supplies for Kindergarten (including a new backpack, since Julia (aka Hulk-toddler) managed to rip Lucy's brand-new one right down the side). We got everything else we needed and headed back to the rack of backpacks and lunch boxes. As we approached, I immediately began thinking, "This was a BAD idea - I should have done this on my own..."
You see, from the moment I became a parent, I've been pretty picky about the media that I allow into the house. My husband and I don't watch TV while the girls are awake, they don't spend much time (if any!) on the iPad or computer, and I'm pretty choosy about the shows I let them watch on Netflix. We don't do princesses or battery-operated toys, and I do my best to encourage cars and spaceships in addition to dolls and play kitchens. I don't let the girls wear clothes with cartoon characters on them (PJ's are an exception, since no one sees them but us) - I hate the idea of my girls being free, mobile advertising for Disney and Nickelodeon. I just think that part of my job as a mother is to act as gatekeeper - the amount of aggressive marketing directed toward kids (especially girls) is staggering, and I just want to stem the tide, if I can. I'm not anti-media, but I want my girls to be thoughtful consumers, once they're old enough to be making those decisions - at age five, three and two, I don't think that day had come just yet. Now, I'm not going to lie, this is not a perfect system. My girls do watch Disney movies occasionally, and I let Lucy watch Frozen twice. Meh. I'm actually rather partial to the movie Tangled, as much as I'm ashamed to admit it. ;-)
So, back to the story - as we walked up to this sea of school time goodies, I saw nothing but cartoon characters. As we started looking through the various offerings, I found a really great alternative - it had ice cream cones all over it, lots of pink scribbles, and (the best part) lit up when you tapped it! Totally cool, right?? Nope, because my five-year-old had fixated on a Frozen-themed pink and purple confection of a backpack. I did my best to talk her out of it, but all my big ideas just wouldn't come out of my mouth when I wanted them to. Somehow we ended up taking that monstrosity home, and Anna and Elsa sat there smirking at me from my kitchen counter that evening. Ha ha ha, they said. We've won, and it's all downhill from here...
Here's the thing: in some ways, things have gone downhill in the past few days since this backpack came into our house. Lucy has become obsessed with watching Frozen again, and whenever it comes up, she throws a tantrum when I say no. It started before we even left the store, in fact. Once she got the backpack she wanted, she started asking for everything! It was ridiculous! I kept reminding her of all the toys she has at home (despite our recent effort to clean out, it seems like they multiply overnight), but she just whined and complained about wanting that toy/shirt/book, whatever it was. It was disappointing, and looking back, I should have trusted my gut, put all of our school supplies back (including the backpack) and walked out of the store. 
I spend much of my prayer time asking the Lord for parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to our "stuff". I want to teach my kids how to be grateful - grateful for what we have, but more importantly, grateful for what we don't have. The more toys, the more clean-up you have to do. The bigger the house, the more you have to clean. The more clothes you have, the more laundry you have to do. The more money you have, the more likely you're going to be a slave to it. Life is not about stuff acquisition!
Lucy's a really great kid, and there are times when she blows me away with her generosity. She's smart, articulate, social, and very responsible. And I know, maybe I'm reading too much into a backpack, but as we make this transition into school, I want to be very conscious of the things she's taking in - it's a (small) part of the reason that we chose to homeschool. And the thing is, it's not even that I'm afraid of her becoming obsessed with something. Every kid is obsessed with something at one time or another. I was no exception, since I spend most of my childhood enamored with poisonous spiders. ;-) But if she's going to be obsessed with something, let it be ladybugs, or horses, or rocks, or building with tinkertoys, or anything besides a movie. I guess it could be worse...she could have chosen the Monster High backpack. :-p