Every year, about the time that I start Christmas shopping for the kids, I become overwhelmed with the knowledge of how many toys we already have in our house. Really, it’s kind of ridiculous. We have so much stuff. And, as I start to contemplate the new things that the boys will find under the tree on Christmas morning, I start to look around and see what we could do without.
I always go around and gather up some toys that have been outgrown, or that haven’t been played with in a long while. Some things get packed up in the closet, and some things go in a donation and give away pile. Then, many of the things that got put away in the closet LAST year and haven’t been missed since also get put in the donation pile — if they haven’t missed it in a year, they’ll survive without it.
It’s always been a little tough because Benjamin gets really attached to his toys. In years past, I’ve tried to include him in the donation process, and it has always ended in tears and hysterics, because there just isn’t anything he can bear to part with. (I was the same way as a kid — I got very attached to toys and other stuff and had a hard time parting with anything, which is part of why Benjamin and Liam currently play with several things that are well over 30 years old.)
Today was a “toy donation day” and I started the process of going through the things squirreled away from last year while B was still at school (to reduce the trauma). Liam watched me with curiosity as I dug toys out of the closet. There were a few things he wanted to play with, but mostly he just watched. He asked, “What doing, Mama?” and I explained that we had more toys than we need and that I was packing them up so that we could give them away to someone who didn’t have enough. “Ok”, he said, and that was that. With only one exception, there was no objection and no tears as I packed things away in bags and stuck them in the corner of the bedroom, explaining that we weren’t going to play with them any more.
In fact, it went so well, and so without strife that I decided to try, again, to involve both boys in the process this time. When B got home from school, I told him that we had a project. I explained that I wanted them each to select one toy — one from the toys that are out and that they play with, not from the ones stuck in the recesses of the closet — to give away to children that might not have any other toys or presents to open on Christmas morning.
And then, instead of tears, I got a surprise. B nodded, bent down, and picked up the first thing that he saw (a remote controlled train). Liam offered his bike. B then proceeded to pick out a remote controlled car (that he just got this summer and plays with a lot — in fact, it is so prized that I had to get it down off of a shelf where he had us put it so that Liam couldn’t play with it) and another train. “These are for the kids that don’t have toys, Mom. I don’t need these anymore, and I think they might like them.”
Well, that’s pretty awesome. No tears, no unhappiness. I confirmed B’s choices with him a few times (we opted to keep one of the trains, and Liam’s bike, because I”m not sure Liam understood the permanence we were talking about — I think he thought it was more like sharing) and we piled up quite a few items to donate through Dan’s work. I am so proud of, and impressed with, my boys. There was a lot of kindness and generosity in their choices, and best of all, they seemed really happy to be helping.