Wednesday, December 18, 2013

toys toys everywhere!!!

Back when we were getting ready to leave America with Bronwyn, we were of the opinion that our daughter needed to be like every other child in the village. She didn’t need store-bought toys, things found in nature and fashioned from scraps would do her just fine and probably stimulate her mind even more than Fisher Price ever could. 

But as pregnant parents and later as newborn parents, we underestimated just how easy it would be to acquire toys for our daughter. We found ourselves wanting to buy her things, so fun has it been to express our love for her in this way. We also came to realize how important it is to let the Grandparents do their share of spoiling as well. We all take joy in giving gifts, and when the recipient is a squealy, bright eyed, joyful and bouncy little girl, its even funner. And so needless to say, we’ve lightened up from the days of “She shall play with sticks!” and have carved out space in our home for her plastic, noise making, items of entertainment.

Even though we are far less grinchy in our toy attitude, there are still two concerns that remain with us.

The first is that we really do have a space limitation issue. Unless we want Bronwyn’s stuff taking over our entire lives, the toy collection needs to fit within the natural boundaries of our living areas. Therefore she has two shelves in our house and a similar space at the farm, with allowance for a few toys to float back and forth to the bedroom. Thankfully Grandma has been a big advocate of books and reading – lots of presents to unwrap with very little real estate sacrificed! Perfect! 

Bronwyn gets the bottom two shelves.
Plus some overflow for the popper.

Leading up to St. Nick's day, the gifts lived here. 

The second concern is that our house is truly becoming toy central. This is good in the one sense that we LOVE having neighbor kids at our house all the time. Bronwyn loves having her friends around and it gives us a chance to interact with these little ones on a consistent basis. The potential down side is that we are sending a wrong message to these young and impressionable playmates. You see, the kids who come and play here have ZERO toys at their house. No books. No dolls, and certainly no singing picnic baskets with shapes and colors and a setting for Spanish. I never want any of the kids to be jealous of Bronwyn, but even more, I don’t want them to think, “if only I had all these toys, then I’d be really happy!” We’ve seen signs of great discontentment in the village as more and more media outlets reach this place. People are getting glimpses of the homes and clothing and food in Lusaka and elsewhere and deciding, for the first time, that what they have is not enough. We hear it from the adults, “If only I can get a tv, then I’ll be satisfied.” The comparison game sets in and a new standard for “the good life” gets set and satisfaction in what God has provided ceases to be enough. And our greatest fear with the Bronwyn toy stash is that we are planting seeds of dissatisfaction in the hearts of our most impressionable friends. 

This would have been a thousand times
better with a video, but its a doorway
dance party with the singing orange cat

With every holiday and birthday (yes all whopping two years worth – why does it feel like so much more?) we think about this. The question is always there: Are we creating a stumbling block to joy by communicating that the good life is found in Christ PLUS toys?

We pray not, but fear so. And so as is the case with many things in our lives, we search for that balance and moderation. We don’t want our own daughter to grow up in a legalistic home. Likewise, we shouldn’t take ultimate responsibility for someone else’s idolatry.

Our gut reaction (a well prayed over gut reaction) is to say that our limits have already been defined by the space we have and as we start to exceed that space, items can be shifted out to the LRC where all kids can access them at any time. We’re coming close to that max capacity already in our 256 square foot house, which means by next Christmas, every item unwrapped will probably be matched with an old item shifting out.

The peace of our conscience depends on this moderation; our testimony to the kids of the village and to our own daughter as well matters too much for us to hoard Toys R Us in our living room. We want each of these kids to be free from the love of stuff, and we pray that we always live in such a way that compels people to seek satisfaction in Christ alone.

innocent squeaking barnyard animals? or stumbling block?

What about you? What does your family do about toy accumulation?

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