"I wish I could have a green frog like Emma's," my four-year old son Finn says during a playdate, pointing to the stuffed animal by Emma's front door, just in case I wasn't clear on the amphibian in question.
I know, baby, I know.
"I just wish," he says mournfully.
I would feel badly for him, and I do a little, but I would feel more badly if he hadn't also just wished – only in the previous hour – for a blue plastic plate, a superhero coloring book, a tiny purple thingamabob belonging to Emma's two-year old sister and, a peanut butter sandwich, hold the jelly.
The fact that he scored the peanut butter sandwich and the blue plate did nothing to stop the wave of demands. Finn is consumerism personified; he and his big curly hair and tiny Converse sneakers are a one-boy tireless, unwavering campaign for STUFF. STUFF includes everything and anything: tiny balls of fluff, big balls of plastic, jagged pieces of foam, random pictures of Captain America, other people's baseball hats, anything blue. And like adult onset consumerism, getting stuff only stokes the fire for - you guessed it - more stuff.
"What did you bring?" are the first words that boom out of his mouth when you enter our front door. While knee-deep in his own holiday gifts this past December, he was already eyeballing the Batman pajamas his cousins just unwrapped, wishing aloud, just wishing, they could be his.
It's all so complicated because kids are such people, after all. Finn is a gentle, funny, lovely child and really, I just want to do for him. I want to see his face light up over and over again. I want to witness his happy dance, his little Irish jig, his fists pumping in the air, his smile rivaling the holiday lights.
It's all my fault, of course. As much as he's addicted to STUFF, I'm addicted to seeing him happy. Happier. Happiest.
"You can't help it. You're in love with the kid," my husband Chris said the other night, shaking his head as I held up a Spiderman action figure in Wal-Mart, imagining the joy on Finn's face when I presented it to him.
And Chris is right, yes. But I'm also in love with our seven-year old and I'm not trying to light her up via retail therapy; that may be because she's not stuff-inclined. (She asked Santa for socks. Socks.) But then, if you mention the word "chocolate" within twenty feet of her, she becomes airborne with delight.
So, predictably, I love to bring her chocolates. To see my precious girl take flight.
Once again in this parenting journey, it is me who is the one learning – and right now, I'm finding one of the toughest lessons is to how not give to my children, at least not so much. Because as lovely as the moment of indulgence is – for all of us - it passes.
And in my heart of hearts, what I truly want to give them, even more than the moment of sky-high happiness, is the lasting gift of appreciation, of being content with what they have, of seeing the loveliness in the everyday.
Now if I can only hold back on Spiderman until Valentine's Day.
Tell us: What do you think? How do you give to your kids? What are your challenges when it comes to fulfilling their wishes?
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