“He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater.” Luke 16:10
“Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. ” Matthew 6: 19-21
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee… Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.” Psalm 102:2,5a
I have a certain tolerance for kids being what my husband calls “destructive.” That is, in the sense that I see a lot of what they do (taking tissues one by one out of a box, or ripping up styrofoam to make snow) as creative expressions, imagination, and curiosity about how the world works. They see things through new eyes and they learn by all their senses. It would be a mistake, I think, to force them into an adult mode of “this is for this and only this, that is for that and only that,” too soon. I believe that could hamper their future creativity – I mean, maybe they’ll find a cure for some disease or build the best mousetrap because they have been allowed to think outside the box all their lives.
But, when my two oldest children, who have been instructed, and should know a bit better, show utter disregard for property and show that they care nothing for the effort, time or money that went into something, I think it’s time for a little lesson. We have had an ongoing problem with the girls’ room being a complete disaster. Laundry is not put away when it is given, toys and books are strewn everywhere, as well as ripped up and taken apart, and the worst part, they started cutting up wearable clothing with scissors and writing on the sheets of their bed. I hit the roof and finally realized I was doing them a disservice. I remember growing up in a room that was largely unsupervised by my parents because of its location in the house, and boy did we live in a pig sty most of the time. Every now and then my sister or I would rip the room apart and clean it from top to bottom and organize it, with great expectation and hope of keeping it that way, but it just didn’t happen. Even then my parents kept telling us it was because we just had too much stuff. I know that was true. When I took off my 100% silk Brooks Brothers sweater and threw it on the floor in a pile of candy wrappers and other unrelated garbage, I was indicating that I really didn’t care much about it. I still struggle with this lack of care, and I have found that limiting the stuff that we have really helps prevent it from getting too out of control.
In the interests of teaching my children to show gratitude for what they do have and to learn to care for things as though they, well, care for them, I went on a crazy purge in their bedroom. I left them with only 4 dresses each, 2 nightgowns, and a few saint books, and no toys except for a stuffed animal. The idea was that they need to learn to care for a little bit and in this way they can earn back some of their other stuff little by little and grow in the skills they need to keep things neat and orderly. It really was unfair of me to expect that they could have everything at once and be told “Keep it clean!” If that is overwhelming to them, I can just teach them little by little. If it gets to the point again that they are unable to handle the amount of things they have, we will take some more away again.
We are calling this “the gratitude project.” We are making it a whole theme… Our nightly prayers are made for the intention of learning gratitude. Mealtime has been included as well, and they have each had opportunity to go hungry as some good food was served that they didn’t prefer. Eating something is a privilege, and eating something we love is an even greater privilege – there are people who would be thankful just to have some nourishing food. Snacks are not a right, either. We are remembering the poor in our exercise and plan to give things away, hopefully to someone we know in person who needs them, but if not, we will donate to a charity or thrift store.
The funny thing is that although they were a bit sad at first, they have each since told me they are happy with their current amount of stuff and might not even want anything back. They played the entire day yesterday with a friend, without dress up, toys or movies, and were quite happy and occupied. I think they are getting the message… and as for their room, well, this is Day 3 of the Gratitude Project and this is how their room looked without any adult supervision or help when they came up for breakfast:
I’d love some more ideas of how we could expand on the theme of gratitude. I’m considering making it our family resolution for 2010, actually, so we could be doing this for a while. 🙂 If you have something to share, please leave a comment!