Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Stuff Monster and Dangers of the Heart

I just want to share some thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind lately. I realize that I risk hurting some feelings or sounding harsh, but I feel like I need to share where we're coming from because we can't do this alone.

You see, we've been given the job of helping this little boy grow and learn about the world and himself. But most importantly, we have been called to help him to learn about who God is and to see his sinful heart for what it is. Lately a huge battle for us has been his growing selfishness and the battle of stuff. We have been trying to help him to see that things are bought with money and that money is obtained by working. Then choices have to be made about the best way to use our money.

Since the boy memorizes pretty much any commercial he has ever seen, and retailers have perfected the art of making everything related to movies (even ones he's not allowed to watch), he has a never-ending list of wants. You would think that the fact that his birthday and Christmas are approximately 6 months apart would have him excited to see it coming soon. However, because there has been a constant trickle of stuff since Christmas, it hasn't even occurred to him that he might get special gifts on his birthday.

We do what we can, but lately we've seen that he's been trained to think of family members as some sort of slot machines where you win every time. You know--you put in your request, pull the lever, and out comes more stuff--or money. That's why when we're in stores, that is the consistent barrage of "I want..." and "Can I have..." That's also why he announced last night that he was going to live somewhere else all because we denied him a happy meal and the chance at a coveted toy car after we had already eaten dinner at home. His problem came when he couldn't figure out how he would take all his things with him in a backpack.

You see, some might think his antics are cute at almost-five, but what happens when he's 10 or 15? Any speck of cuteness has been replaced with brattiness and pure selfishness. Unfortunately, waiting until 10 or 15 to address the issue will be too late. So this is the battle we've been fighting. How do we take care of this now? How do we help him to grow into a little person who appreciates the things he does have and cherishes gifts from others?

I realize, too, that everyone enjoys giving him treats. It's fun to get to pick out something that you think will make him happy. Honestly, we've had to back away from that ourselves even for holidays and birthdays because we don't want to be heaping treats on the pile. When you multiply the goodies by as many grandparents and aunts and uncles as he has, the pile gets pretty big. The gifts just aren't as special anymore. And I know it's not what some like to hear, but we did recently finish another purge of the bedroom. Drastic action had to be taken to clear out some things to make room for another person. We boxed up a lot of things and sent them to live in the attic for a while. There were even things from this past Christmas included. And he has yet to notice anything that is missing. He has not asked a single question about anything that was put away. He doesn't miss it.

All this to say that we really do need your help. I know I've had conversations before with some about the overwhelmingness of the stuff, and I don't think it was taken seriously or maybe I just came across as ungrateful. I know my family likes to harass me about our purging and yard sales, but I'll take harassment if it means less stuff and a more grateful little boy. I know stuff may seem harmless, but I'm hoping that by sharing a bit about what we're trying to combat that everyone can see it's not just about stuff, but it's about the heart of a little boy that we all love so very much. And that is a very serious matter, indeed!


  1. Anonymous1:07 PM

    That is the constant trial of being a parent. To do the best we can - yet we can never be the parent we need to be without God's grace. The best thing to do - also the hardest one for me - to pray for your children. Thank God that you don't have to parent alone. That you don't have to rely on the ever changing "best parenting methods". That with God's help you can be the parent they need. I struggle w/ the same issues w/ my 6 year old. So into stuff!!!! Keep on praying! April from Diaper Swappers :)

  2. Anonymous9:04 PM

    This is just too much. Sorry, but he is 5 and it sounds like you have a great family and that you are the one that needs to learn selflessness and self control. It seems we can sometimes try too hard. Sometimes life can be enjoyable and organized at the same time. It just sounds like you are spending more time worrying about things and not enjoying the person your son is becoming. Yes, I do agree that guidance is necessary... but so over the top?

  3. I'm sorry you feel that way, but I still disagree. I know not everyone will see things the way we do, but it's our job to teach him and help him guard his heart even from a very young age. I don't think anything is over the top when it comes to fighting sin in our lives.

  4. I like the list of gifts that some parents use. "Something to wear, something to read, something I want, something I need". Also, I used to keep a list of things my kids "liked" on the frige at home. They were never allowed to say "I want that" but they were allowed to say "I like or I REALLY like"... then when we got home we would write it on a list. When I had money or there was a special event we would pick something off of the list. It helped them to see that often after a week had passed they no longer wanted it.


Thank you for your comments!