I am on a seemingly constant quest to rid our house of "junk" toys. I don't think I ever realized how utterly plastic our world has become until I had children. It seems everywhere you turn there's a game or toy that will supposedly help your child to grow and learn all these wonderful skills and attributes. My only question is, what did children do before all of these toys and gadgets? Gee, they must have been awfully deprived.
This whole toy issue thing is quite often on my mind, so as part of my exploration of it, I recently asked my grandfather what kind of toys his brothers and sisters played with when he was growing up. He said, "None. We didn't have any. We grew up in the Depression." Yet my grandfathter is a kind, loving, compassionate, intelligent man... certainly not deprived of any necessary skills for life.
I consider myself to be someone who strives to live a simple life, and I know quite well that marketing tools are aimed at creating a false sense of need in us in order to get us to buy more stuff. However, I must admit that there are times when I wonder if I am depriving my son by limiting his toys. Isn't it amazing how powerful these marketing moguls can be, that although I don't even have a television spewing out commercial advertisements at me, I'm still impacted by them? We are surrounded by such a culture of excess that it is difficult to escape its lures.
But one thing definitely sticks out the most in my own childhood memories. And, believe it or not, it's not the Cabbage Patch doll! To this day, I can remember my secret, special spot. Whenever I wanted to be alone or to find quiet time, I would go to an area of my parents' yard where no one could see me, and I would just sit and close my eyes and simply be. Or I would go outside at night and sit on the stoop by our garage and look up at the stars in the sky and be filled with peace and wonder. Another joy was crawling in a small space in the back of one of our coat closets where no one could see me.... Or creating a tent out of bedsheets and blankets, a house out of a cardboard box.... Sneaking books under my pillow at night so I could wake up and read by the moonlight. No toys, no plastic, no flashing lights.
So when thinking about what my little boys "need" in order to grow into the men God created them to be, I keep reminding myself that it is all pretty simple. Time to explore the natural world, time to to create, time to play, time to simply "be." Sometimes I think we make things more complicated than they have to be.