We have a lot of stuff
One of our two main floor toy drawers. Not to be confused with the basement playroom stash.
Growing up, I didn't have much at all.
I do remember having lots of GI Joes and He-Man Masters of The Universe toys when living in Canada with my mom and my dad.
I don't remember having as much once we moved to New Zealand. I remember stuff coming from my dad. But I remember stuff getting smashed in a drunken rage by my former step dad at an equal pace. I remember my imagination being my most valued asset. The number of uses of a stick when it comes to playing pretend, holy moly.
I think that because of this, I definitely do over-compensate when it comes to my own kids.
It goes without saying that love is unconditional, love isn't a physical asset, and love isn't bought with an abundance of dyed molded plastic from far away sweatshops, stamped with the latest Nickelodeon characters likeness.
But, at the same time, part of loving someone is making them feel whole. Making their heart and soul fulfilled. Never making them question if they're good enough. Seeing their face light up with joy.
Growing up, I always wanted to have a complete set of something. Anything.
The closest I ever got was almost an entire set of trading cards that went along with the 1992 classic "Batman Returns". They were given out free in the TV guide in New Zealand, 1 card per issue. An equally street urchin friend of mine, crazy Robert, came up with the idea of us hitting up all the stores that sold TV guides and stealing all the Batman cards. This was justified as not being stealing because the cards themselves were free. We dropped them down our sweatpants and filled our cuffed pant legs with them. Somehow we were never caught. I then asked Robert to take them all home with him because I was too scared of the beatdown that would follow if I turned up with them at my house. Ugh.
A few years ago, I got my girls a complete set of PJ Mask action figures. In typical small kid fashion, one or two would periodically go missing throughout the travels of our daily fun. I would tear the house apart looking for them, because I knew how hard I had worked to provide my girls with something I never had. I've eased up a lot on these silly OCD anxiety moments. With three kids, it's an impossible losing battle anyways.
My oldest remarked recently "daddy, we have a lot of stuff!" while cleaning up our playroom. She did say this as part of us bagging up stuff we didn't play with anymore to take to Goodwill. She's as kind hearted as they come for six years old, and really enjoys knowing that when we are done with something that we can take a quick five minute car ride to Goodwill and pass it along to a child who otherwise doesn't have a toy at home to play with. She LOVES this idea. She somehow shares better with kids she's never met than she does with her own siblings.
Although we might have a lot of stuff; partially because I love playing toys with my kids, and partially because it's a symbol of evolution and being better than where I came from; that stuff will come and go. Some of it will break. Some of it will be lost. Some of it will be given away. Tears will be shed. New stuff will take its place.
In the life cycle of this consumerism, you can bank on a few things remaining constant:
- I will always remember the moments behind that stuff. The glee behind opening a new gift. The hours of fun we have playing with it together. The fact that my middle kid loves her toys so hard that she can't put them down. She seriously has carried the same five frozen toys everywhere she has gone for four weeks now.
- I will never leave a doubt in the minds of my child when it comes to their birthdays and Christmas, and if they are loved and worthy being defined by if they have presents to open, and how many they have to open. I know what it's like to not get anything for your birthday or Christmas. I know what it's like to count down the days and put up the tree myself alone and open up one gift. I know what it's like to wonder why other kids have so much more than me, and if that was because they were better behaved or nicer or smarter or if their parents just loved them more. I'll never leave that doubt and those proceeding questions in their mind.
- I will always ensure that home is a safe place. A happy place. A tidy and well maintained place. A place they can be proud to bring friends over to play with their stuff. Where their parents won't embarrass them in front of their friends. Where they and their friends won't have to decide if choking on second hand smoke is worth playing with action figures. I will provide the home that we saw in those PSAs about block parents when we were kids. A beacon of light in the moments of darkness that come with childhood and new fears and worries associated with growing up.
We have a lot of stuff. It will come. It will go. We will eventually give it all away at one point or another. But my love for my wife and kids; and my role in providing a safe, happy, and loving home will never change. That's what dads do.