Last weekend my husband knocked our socks off by bringing home a collection of paper lanterns to light and release. Similar to the ones pictured floating heavenward in Pixar’s Tangled, these non-flammable lightning-bugs soared and became mere specks in the night sky, glowing and reaching until they were hidden by the night.
Our children watched in awe, mouths gaping at the wonder of it. We stood looking at them, tucking away the memories forever, wanting desperately to create summertime magic and keep it sparkling.
So we made a campfire.
We made a campfire and watched the sparks fly, listening to the pops and snaps of singing wood. We watched our kids run barefoot from the heat and onto the trampoline and back again.
And when the fire began to die, we responded by stoking the magic: we set up our family tent on top of the trampoline and slept under the stars, telling stories and fighting gravity’s pull into the center of the mat.
It was a fun night, and I love giving these kind of gifts to our kids.
The kind of gifts that aren’t things at all: instead, they’re memories of love and togetherness.
But at one point, my husband whispered to me, “Geez, we’re doing all the fun stuff in one night! We have to save something for later in the summer!”
I replied with the classic parenting comeback, “Yeah (pause)…our kids really don’t know how good they have it.”
Our kids have it good. Too good?
When my husband and I were talking, my mind vacillated between the list of even more great things we have coming up this summer, and the stories of suffering I read about in the newspaper. I thought of kids I know personally who are having a less-than-awesome June, and my heart broke.
And it still breaks.
How can it be that our family is blessed with a vacation and pools to swim in and paper lanterns…while so many suffer? It made me think, “Do we give our kids too much? Is there such a thing? If so, where’s the line?”
Part of me wonders if I should take away privileges and replace them with chores. Not to be cruel, but to provide more balance; to remind them that living in a castle they are not.
Part of me wonders if we should disconnect our TV. Or at least get rid of cable. Or at least limit the number of shows we record.
Part of me wonders if we should we cancel campfires and sit in the darkness? Or do the campfires and deny ourselves bug spray?
It sounds like penance, frankly. But how do we not produce entitled…brats? How do we fight against that?
Perhaps there are a few things we can do while living in the Land of Plenty:
- Step into the suffering of the “Less-Than-Awesome-June” people. Invite them to join in your magic. Love them in tangible ways.
- Practice saying “no.” Last night we were invited to the beach and it killed me to decline, but I’m realizing that it’s not healthy to say “yes” to everything. And furthermore, saying “yes” to everything is not real life.
- Model delayed gratification. This is tough — especially when it comes to Target clearance racks. But if we expect our kids to give up the things they want, we must be willing to do the same.