Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Missing Library Books and Hidden Wealth

This morning I received a threatening e-mail. It was a “final notice to return the item(s) listed below. If we do not receive the material(s) within seven days, you will be billed for replacement costs.” So in response I boldly went two places where this mom dreads to go: 1) under the living room sofa and 2) beneath my girls’ beds. It was time to do an all out search for the missing library books. In so doing, I found the equivalent of a shelf full of books. I was 75% victorious in my delinquent book quest--3 out of 4 books were recovered.

What I also unearthed was more startling than the unidentifiable fruit mass I came across. Shoved underneath our furniture I faced a heap of toys and assorted possessions that I am sure exceeds what many non-American children have in total. And we are talking only about what I found under one sofa and two beds. Never mind shelves and bins and outdoor toys. And compared to many of our peers we have a “small” number of toys I would say. Yet even with our comparatively paltry amount, we don’t play with even half of the toys anymore. My simplicity-loving husband has pointed this out more than once. Pieces are scattered in various spots and rooms so that even if my children wanted to play with many their toys and puzzles, they would have to exhaust their attention spans just to locate most of the pieces.

This is one reason we are discouraging grandparents (and ourselves) from buying many more toys. We can’t manage the current toys and games we already own. So, as I have admonished myself and others before, maybe instead of shopping for toys that are new (or new to us), we should spend that time recovering and organizing what we do have. And be thankful and humbled at the wealth of items we already possess.

My oldest daughter apparently recognizes our abundance already. She has been intent lately on collecting things to sell. Perhaps she was inspired by a video episode where Angelina Ballerina sorts through her things to give away in an “unwanted” box. The example certainly didn’t come from me, though it should have. In addition to organizing and reassembling their playthings, we need to sort them together--mother and child. “Keep”, which means take care of,”toss”, meaning throw in the trash, “give away”, and “sell”. I think it is especially important to practice giving toys away, to instill and reinforce intentional generosity. I probably need these lessons even more than my three children do. I find myself too reluctant to let go of their toys!

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