Editor's note: This article was originally published on Anna's blog, House to Home. It has been republished here with permission.
My husband and I have always wanted a lot of kids. (Of course, "a lot" is a relative term, depending what your social circles look like, but for the purpose of this post, we're going to call "a lot" more than three.) Over the last six years, when we've made our feelings known, we've often been met with one particular phrase: Kids are so expensive!!
Well, on the one hand, I suppose they are. Depending on your particular situation – medical bills, dental care, school tuition, etc. all definitely add up. So I'm not trying to be flippant with what I'm about to say, but I do think it's an important distinction to be made when one is saying how "expensive" children are.
_Kids aren't expensive. Greed is._
Kids don't "need" designer clothes, Etsy outfits, brand new everything, more shoes than they can wear before they grow out of them, and 8,000 of whatever the latest toy craze is. Kids don't need a playroom full of more toys than they know what to do with. (I'll go one step further with this one. They don't even want it. It's stressful and overwhelming for them. But anyways.) Kids don't "need" to be signed up for a different so-called enrichment class every night of the week. They need sunshine, fresh air, freedom to move, and space to create.
As parents, as human beings, it is far too easy to get sucked into the vortex of materialism and greed that has so taken over our society.
Bigger is not always better and less is often more.
Are we accumulating "stuff" for our children or are we enriching and developing their lives and hearts?
Don't get me wrong – stuff is good! Shopping is fabulous, and if it was a professional sport, I'd be a champion! But I think it's particularly important as parents to teach and model the difference between enjoying material goods … and merely accumulating things. One is a positive – an accessory, if you will, to our human life together, bringing a definite level of happiness and pleasure. The other is a slippery slope into stress, greed, bitterness and envy.
Our children have toys, they have clothes, they have (for better or worse) more than what they need. My husband and I are thoughtful about spending, but we also believe in the excitement and pleasure of new things – even if "new" sometimes means more like "new-to-me." We try as best we can to show our children gratitude, with our actions more than our words. Like with every other aspect of parenting, though, there is always that flicker of doubt. Are we getting this message through to them? Are they appreciative, are they grateful, are their hearts content, rather than greedy for more?
Then, the other day my husband was talking to Mikey about his upcoming birthday, and asked Mikey what gifts he wanted. I'm not even going to lie, our son's response made my eyes fill with tears and my heart fill with that mother pride that I know you've all felt one time or another.
"Oh, Daddy. I have my best toys, and books, and my doggie, and Ellie and Baby Lucas. I want Batman to come to my party. But he doesn't need to bring anything. I have everything I need right now."
I have everything I need.
Tonight, I'm walking endlessly with my sick baby boy, trying to ignore the laundry that's piled up, and the dishes that never got washed. I enjoy my usual chuckle when I watch the couples on HGTV demanding granite counters, walk-in closets, and houses so big you could get lost in them. I wonder what those people would think if they saw our tiny house full of tiny people. Maybe they, too, would say, "Kids are so expensive."
But as I kiss my baby's dimpled cheeks, I know the truth.
Our children, yours and mine, they need so very little and give so very much.
They need compassion, security, respect, Faith and morals to guide them; they need our love. They need our eyes on them as they show their latest skill, our ears open to hear their latest story, our minds and hearts fully present when we sit with them to play, to read, to be. In the end … that is everything they need.
What our children really need from us – it doesn't cost a thing.