Five Favorites Link Up: Non-Toy Presents

Today I’m linking up with The Big White Farmhouse for Five Favorites.

Tomorrow is Pippin’s fifth birthday, and I’m also trying to polish off my Christmas shopping before Roo debuts, so I’ve got gifts on my mind. I thought I’d share five gifts I’m excited about giving this year (or the kids receiving from other family) that Are Not Toys.

  • A party. My oldest kid is only five so this is still a pretty early family tradition, but I’ve been moving toward fewer birthday presents and instead doing a low-key birthday party for each kid. That way I feel like I have the latitude to buy outrageously overpriced Octonauts napkins or whatever (which Pippin loves), and they don’t wind up with more stuff — just memories. I guess when they’re older they can opt out of the party for a really cool Lego set or whatever, but we can cross that bridge when we get to it.
  • Wool long underwear. How cruel is this gift? But seriously! Merino is expensive, and it makes a big difference in our ability to get outside in the cold months. This year, this is Scout’s baselayer, which she’ll receive for Christmas.
  • Fancy rain boots/rain jackets. We all know the popularity of galoshes in the preschool set, and a good pair can run in the $20-30 range — not a casual sum in my kids’ wardrobe budget. They also, because of their (over)use don’t usually make it into hand-me-down bins in my circles. But give my girl a pair of cherry red boots or my boy a policeman rain jacket (like my parents are doing for his birthday), and they’re over the moon.

  • Police gear. For Christmas, Pip will receive traffic cones and police bike gear. I hope this will help get us all outside as outlined in the Police Preschool precepts. I guess these are kind of toys? But them living outside and performing a specific activity makes a difference to my mind.
  • Art supplies. Nothing too fancy this year — just an infusion of PlayDoh, but in the past we’ve done glitter glue, Kwik Stix, twistable crayons, watercolors and paint smocks to great (and only semi-destructive) acclaim.

Do you love posts like this, that give you gift ideas that won’t add to the toy pile? They’re a weakness of mine. I particularly liked the suggestions here, although they’re mostly for kids older than mine.

 

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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.