We have a big birthday coming up. Not so much huge step up the hill, but it’s markedly different than H’s last birthday, as now he has a sister who possesses an awareness of toys and receiving gifts. Last year she was barely crawling. Yikes! How a year goes so quickly…
So between the birthday and Christmas coming about, it made me do some thinking about how we approach ownership in our home. Up to this point, neither kids really “possess” anything of their own. H regularly rides M’s pink and purple tricycle (much to his father’s chagrin), since she can’t yet and she is clueless about it. All toys remain in their respective homes – the first to begin play gets the first round. If both show interest and a fight erupts, the second on the scene must wait their turn and find a different toy in the meantime. Honestly, even food and drink are experienced in this fashion. Milk cups and ham slices are to be passed around. (However, don’t think me more thoughtful than you ought; this approach was conceived mostly out of laziness.)
But soon and very soon H will unwrap a series of gifts to be “his.” I’m not sure what to think about this. I’m kinda digging our communal living approach. I’ll go so far as to say it’s biblical. In actuality, we own nothing – it’s been given to us as a blessing to steward and care for, and can be taken away just as easily. Now now, I hear you say in your head, “what I purchase with the money I earned is mine.” And while I’ll grant a little latitude, I’ll simply ask the source of your gifts and abilities that make work possible. What if you were gored by an ox or fell in a deep fryer and the brain, arms, legs or mouth that you use to make a living is no longer at your disposal? I say, my friends, even the ability to work hard for a paycheck is a gift not to be overlooked.
So I like that currently my children own nothing. In the house which they live there are boxes and shelves of toys which they are welcome to play with, but they must take care of them and return them to their rightful places at the end of the day. And these same toys will be played with by siblings alike. I’m hoping this approach places the idea of stewardship into more than just what numbers we put in a plate on Sunday.
However. I have doubt. Oh, yes, there’s always doubt in this little brain, and this time I’m going to share it aloud. Will an ownership-free childhood deprive them of what it means to give? How does the concept of having something and choosing to give it away fit into the idea that it wasn’t theirs to begin with? Is it strengthened or weakened? And will they value something less if it’s not “theirs”? Will they take advantage of and be careless with the things that they feel no direct ownership of?
And hear me clearly: we have too many grandparents in the mix for me to feel as if we’ll escape 18 years without hearing “It’s my _____!” Birthdays and Christmases are fast approaching where each will unwrap his/her own and then suddenly feel as if said toy needs to be protected from siblings. (Which, I’m sure, will lead to comparison, and we’re sure to hear “it’s not fair! I want one of those”).
But surely there has to be a way. There has to be. I know I’m not to the first to wrestle with this. I don’t want to mindlessly accept the current models of consumerism and materialism. However, as others (and we as parents) choose to bless my children, I want them to experience it to the nth degree. As someone who loves to give good gifts, I don’t want to deprive anyone of that right. It’s a good and joyful thing to have excited gift givers in your life. And I want them to experience those who are giving so that they see it modeled and become generous people. Getting rid of giving gifts is not a solution or a goal.
A healthy understanding of ownership, or stewardship, is the aim. But, as in so many things: what does that look like? Especially on Christmas morning.