It never fails. The minute that the costumes are put away and the candy from trick or treating is hidden, the case of the “I Wants” begin.
Its an incessant mantra, “I want, I want, I want” and with each utterance of the words, I take a deep breath and do my best to quiet the lecture that threatens to burst forth from my mouth. Those words are like nails on a chalkboard for me, and most times, I give a visible shudder when those words come out of my babies’ mouths.
For me, there’s such a sense of entitlement in those words. I want, therefore give me. I want, therefore I deserve to have it. No. Just no.
Please don’t hear me wrong. We do the present giving thing at Christmas time. I love watching my little ones open a present that I know they’ve longed for and will treasure. It’s part of the joy of being a parent, getting to share in that special moment with them. And yes, as their mother, I have a fairly good idea of what will bring a smile to their face. I look forward to Christmas morning as much as they do.
But its when they’re looking through the big toy catalogue or when we’re walking through a store, and the “I wants” become more about the gimmies than the actual desire for, or love of, a hobby or collection. Its when they lay their eyes on something that they’ve never seen before, have no idea what it is or what it does, but because its shiny, they want. It’s the coveting that I dread, and an attitude I want to nip in the bud.
And then today it dawned on me. What if, instead of focusing on what we think is missing in our life, we start focusing on what’s already there? And so I started a new game with our LIttles. The “I Have…” game.
It started out with just Reagan, Ashlynn, and I on our way home from running a few Christmas errands. The “I Wants” began with a whimper and by the end of our errands, it was a full blown shout. Enough to give me a headache. And heartache, if truth be told.
“Hey Reagan, what if we played the “I Have” game?” I countered against a wish for another type of doll.
It made her pause, and I watched as she tilted her head in thoughtfulness. “What’s that?” she asked.
“Here, how about I go first?” I offered. I waited for her smile and gave the first answer. “I have… a warm bed and soft pillow where I can sleep.”
I watched her as the concept of the game sank in and I recognized the glint in her eyes when she caught on. “I have… crayons and markers to color with,” she offered. I smiled in the rearview mirror and nodded in encouragement. “You’re right, Baby! You do have a ton of crayons and markers and you make beautiful pictures!” I turned to Ashlynn, “Do you want a turn, Love?”
She wiggled in her car seat and said, “I have… Barbies!” And I laughed.
The three of us round-robined the rest of the way home, and the suggestions were as silly as being thankful for socks or candy, to the more serious thanks for a roof over our heads and food in our fridge. It was such a breath of fresh air, and I sighed in relief.
Perspective. Its one of the biggest gifts I can give my Littles. There will always be someone who has more than us, and there will always be someone with less. Its so easy to get caught up in the things that we don’t have, that we forget about the things that others envy us for having. Perspective, its something that even I lose sight of more times than I care to admit.
We played the “I Have…” game twice more today. Once after we picked up Devyn and Hudson from school, and the second as the Littles tried explaining the rules to their daddy. So far the game is still new and fun and its a novelty, but I pray that it’ll help us remember just how very rich we are without all the “I Wants” that cloud our vision.
Two little words. Both “I want…” and “I have…” have incredible power to shape our attitudes, but I want our family to focus on the blessings we already have.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie