We parents (and grandparents) mean well. When our children show an interest in something, we want to support them. Sometimes, in our enthusiasm to encourage, we accidentally complicate things and even steal some of the joy. This is often true in the area of buying toys. Here’s a recent example from my home to illustrate this.
One of my young daughters enjoys hosting tea parties. She would pull a tablecloth out of the pantry (or even use a pretty bed sheet if the tablecloths were all in the laundry), and neatly spread it over our dining table. She would run outside and pick wildflowers, carefully arranging them in a leftover baby food jar. Gathering random, mismatched mugs from the cupboards. I would brew tea and make toast, and she set about fetching her dolls and bears and siblings for teatime. Sounds lovely, no?
Then, she was gifted with a huge box – a tea party set. What could go wrong?
Nevermind that she previously enjoyed tea parties without having extra stuff for it. Now, she has a box of special tea party items, all of which are dainty, precious and breakable. Thus instantly raising everyone’s blood pressure in a house with seven children. Including a toddler who is practicing the art of the grab-and-throw.
Said child decides to take over the dining table where the family eats lunch. Of course, it’s moments before a meal. The child then begins barking orders at the parents to brew tea. (Uh-oh, trouble brewing!)
The pretty gifted napkins can’t be folded just so, so she proceeds to throw a fit. No matter how gently the parents try to explain that rectangles don’t fold into neat triangles, only squares do.
Child informs everyone in the house, “Don’t Touch my Tea Party Stuff.” Requiring parents to take a time-out to speak to her about how we don’t talk to our loved ones that way.
The child refuses to eat lunch, because of the tea party, so she will be fussy and hungry (leading to more misbehavior) when the parents are out running errands later.
Now she begins yelling at the closest sibling who dared touch the flowers in the special tea party vase on the table. And when the toddler reaches for the pretty, special breakable things the child becomes stressed out and the parents now realize they have to take over and put the things away…
And so on, and on, and on.
Somehow the child, instead of being blessed by these new things, is actually cursed by their presence. The things are causing division between loved ones instead of unity, and everyone over age 10 in the household rolls their collective eyes and says, “Could’ve seen that coming”.
Parent considers hiding the tea party stuff. Except now the ordinary, everyday tea parties she has been enjoying are no longer good enough. Because now it’s about the stuff and not the real treasure, having tea with people you care about, and using your creativity to make it happen. The fun was in the experience, not the things.
There’s something I’ve tried to remember as scenes like this have played out in my home over the years while raising kids. The fun is often in the journey, in the using our creativity to put magic into ordinary things, instead of expecting things to be magical.
Carrie Willard is a wife to a handsome woodworker and mom to seven homeschooled kids. She’s a writer, reader and wannabe French girl who is often found walking barefoot. Read more at http://www.CarrieWillard.com