Idolatry, Control and Ownership: The Story of the Toy Closet

 

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The toy closet: a place of great joy and mystery, usually child-locked to save us from utter ruin

This week I dropped a lot of nice toys off at the local thrift shop and felt…scared.

What if we need them again? What if I’m not grateful for the generosity of the people who love my children? Are these even really mine to give away?
It’s scary going, but I’m finally beginning to see these thoughts for what they are: my attempt to control things with things.
My husband knows how to treat yo’self. He will buy himself nice things if he’s going to use them, and sometimes those nice things will get broken or lost, because he is basically a boisterous human border collie.
I am not that way. In Divergent terms, I’m Abnegation, 110%. I am good at caring for things and saving them, often past the point of usefulness, as my childhood hoard of pristine sticker sheets attests. If someone gives me a gift, I want to honor the gift and the giver by keeping it forever. If it belongs to my children, I — ludicrously — want their permission before I give it away. (Refresher: my kids are 3 and 10 months.)
J buys himself things and I, mostly, don’t. (With the exciting recent exception of a new bite guard we’re getting me with our hefty tax return: PARTY ON.) And it’s easy to see that self-denial as virtue, if you’re already inclined in that direction.
But as I get older, I begin to see that strict frugality, that unwillingness to let go, for the handicap it most certainly is. I want to protect my family by being prepared for everything, and by saving money so that I’m never vulnerable. It’s squirrelly thinking, and bogs me down so that I can’t accept life as it comes, and the generosity of people as I need it. I don’t want my kids to be this way, and everywhere I look are gentle suggestions that it’s better for children to be weighed down with less physical junk.
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Has 1000 toys, prefers to play with diaper boxes and the infant bathtub. You know.
So I am experimenting with being freer with belongings, not just in terms of the bulging toy closet. When I’m packing for a trip, I try to remember just the one or two items we each must have in order to function. When I’m weeding baby clothes, I try to give away a bit beyond the point of comfort. I push scenarios out of the way: twins or another truck lover or Pippin remembering, six months later, about his second-string garbage truck, long since handed on. God has provided for the kids thus far, and I can’t protect hypothetical future offspring with a hoarded wardrobe, much as I’d like to.
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Author: Katherine Grimm Bowers

Babies. Books. Fledgling housewifery. Once and future librarian. Catholic. Always thinking about chocolate ice cream.

3 thoughts on “Idolatry, Control and Ownership: The Story of the Toy Closet”

  1. This is so transparently honest that it made me cry…not in small part because I am this way, too. I struggle mightily with using things up. I want always to save them…just in case…in case of what? Can we not get more watercolors if we paint so much that we run out? Why does it matter if the blue fingerpaint runs out first because it’s everyone’s favorite? Doesn’t it matter more that people had fun painting with it? Or that the world is slightly more beautiful (or slightly more blue) because of it?

    By now, I thought I would have these issues sorted, but I’m still struggling. At least I’m in good company.

    Like

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