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Kids Love the Simple Things
By Sharina Smith

I once took a personality test that resulted in my classification as an Executive Mother. Despite my best efforts at being the business-like CEO at home, I have learned that my preschooler and preteen love the simple things best. Their favorite dinners are the ones where I have not had time to cook. We eat peeled apples and cheese and buttered toast while waiting for a can of vegetable soup to heat. They love it. On the nights when I have made the time to cook a beautiful hot meal featuring the four food groups, one child says, "Yuck, Iím not eating this," and the other child throws his food onto the floor with a flourish as if to say, "Yuck, Iím not eating this."

Planned outings are another lesson, one of which I am very slow to learn. Well-orchestrated trips (you know, the ones where youíve packed everything for every imaginable contingency from snakebites to snick snacks) to the zoo or to the river resort, are hardly ever as appreciated by my little ones as much as they appreciate the hose. Yes, my kids love the garden hose. A trickle of water from the garden hose entertains them for hours and I donít have to pack snacks or drinks. They drink the water then splash through the puddles to the patio table for cookies Ė store-bought cookies, of course. They hate the homemade ones, except for a few bites of the raw dough. Toys are yet another thing that has puzzled me. Since first pregnant ten years ago, I have diligently researched the latest developmentally correct playthings and agonized over each purchase. Do I really have to buy an ugly-as-sin, expensive, black, white and red mobile for my babiesí eye coordination and development, or will the adult-eye-pleasing teddy bear one be okay? Will a Barbie traumatize my daughter and reduce her to a weight-obsessed clotheshorse? Should I try not to let my son play with cars and trucks all day and try instead to nurture his sensitive side with dolls?

I am happy to report that both of my children have excellent vision after staring at teddy bears for the first five months of their lives. My daughter has used her Barbies to reenact events from the Crucifixion of Christ to the latest episode of Arthur. The dolls have been doctors and lawyers and martyrs. They have been moms and dads and kids, no matter their given plastic gender. My daughter wants to be a doctor and own a horse ranch when she grows up. And as for my son Ö whether the plaything was intended to be a motorized vehicle or not, it has been vrrrroomed through the house. He wants to be a kindergarten teacher and a daddy when he grows up.

I do believe it is time for me to stop worrying about what toys to buyÖ. I see they have forgotten the plastic food in their play kitchen and have set up shop with a variety of egg cartons and macaroni and cheese boxes. The box that held the fire truck is the fire station. Barbie and Ken do not drive their pink plastic car anymore; they are seated for a cruise in an upside down stepstool. After watching them play, I donít worry anymore about whether my daughter will be stigmatized by her Barbie years or whether my son will be an insensitive macho man because his favorite toys are guns and plastic green Army guys. I have witnessed the kidsí affection for each other and for their animals, both the stuffed and alive variety. Our daughter and son know that their mom, their dad, an extended family, friends, and a church community love them with their best interests at heart.

The simple things are what kids love. Love, shelter, food, and a chance to express their creativity are simply what kids need.

© 2004, Sharina Smith. All rights reserved.
Sharina Smith lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her husband, Chuck, and their combined family of four children. Sharina is a poet, writer, singer, and serves full-time on staff at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. Her new book, Shout for Joy: poems from the journey, is available at www.sharinasmith.com.

LIFE LESSONS FROM 2004:
I believe the greatest lesson I have learned throughout 2004 has been to give all to God, to be still and patient. No matter what we are faced with in life, God has His purpose and questioning it does not give the answers, but trusting in Him and waiting patiently for Him does. (Patricia Ouellette)

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