This weekend there were a lot of little boys at my house. At one point, in my front yard, we had five sports going on: flag football, soccer, tetherball, basketball, and darts. There was also skateboarding on the sidewalk and a late-night laser-tag game in the dark. It was great fun. Everyone was having a blast, and I was so thankful as I reflected on the mini-grief-journey I had recently traveled.
I’ll take you back to where it began. There was a certain toy that my boys wanted for Christmas. They had been playing with similar toys for months, so it made sense, and they got several of them for Christmas.
They have hardly played with them since that day. Maybe twice.
Here is a collection of my thoughts (in no particular order):
That was a lot of money…
The boys begged for them…
They take up a lot of space just sitting there…
They were so fun and kept the boys busy for hours…
WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED.
Can someone please tell me. What about receiving exactly what you asked for as a Christmas gift makes you never want to play with it again? I have to be honest; I really struggled. I quickly realized that it wasn’t the wasted money or space that was bothering me. I was grieving the disappearance of the little boys who wanted to play with these toys. Here I was, nearly in tears, over a bedroom that was well organized with toys. A bedroom well organized because no one had been playing with the toys in weeks.
So I brought it up several times and each time they would get upset with me and swear they *loved* the toys and were going to play, play, play with them. I apparently insulted them by suggesting they didn’t want to play with the toys, yet they spent all their time doing other things. On one hand, I was thankful for all the new and exciting ways they were living life to the fullest, but, on the other hand, I was about to start playing with the toys myself to make sure they were put to good use.
Then it happened. I made (another) complaint about the lack of playing with the toys, and my oldest son stopped me mid-sentence. With sadness in his voice, he began to verbally process the confusion, guilt, revelation, and freedom of what was going on in his head. I listened carefully as he closed, “Mom, none of my friends really play with toys anymore. And I guess I don’t either.” I paused and gulped. Could this be?
Could my boy be done with toys?
I was speechless for a moment. I wanted to be understanding and validate his new season of life and let him know his honesty would bring him understanding and not shame, but this was so hard to hear. You don’t want to play with your toys? Somehow I steadied my expression and found my words. Words I didn’t know I had until that moment. “It’s ok,” I said. “I understand… you’re getting older.” And as I turned to walk away it hit me, a tiny spark of hope waiting to be heard,
“You don’t have to play with toys, but you don’t ever have to stop playing.”
He looked at me with hopeful eyes. I could tell, like me, he was relieved with this truth. Those are just toys.. and this, this was good news. The way we play may change, but we can still play for the rest of our lives… giving up toys was not the end of being someone who plays but merely the beginning.
These words seemed to give both of us hope and comfort. I could tell he wasn’t finished feeling like a child by any means, but he was having trouble seeing the next step in his childhood. Maybe we won’t play with cars and legos as much anymore, but we know there is a lot of fun to look forward to. Our family loves sports, outdoors, skateboarding, puzzles and movie nights. Just to name a few. Not to mention, I am kind of excited to trade-in the army men for more family game nights!
Well, we’re almost there…
When I have suggested we box up some of the toys for a younger child who would adore them, both my boys scoff in disbelief. They think it would be crazy to get rid of them. For now, they just aren’t ready… and I get that. We are all on this journey together, letting go of the old, inviting the new, one step at a time. And if I’m honest, I don’t mind waiting just a little bit longer myself.