Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Contentment

About two hours ago I sent my boys out the door to school and then sat down to write a post about our morning discussion (for lack of a more grumpy word) about contentment. About 45 minutes later, I had a very detailed post about all of the events leading up to this morning's discussion. It was well written and hit on the head all of the points I wanted to make, but for some reason I didn't hit the "post" button.

Instead, I walked away and ate breakfast. As I was eating breakfast, I pondered the post that I had just written. I wondered if it really said what I wanted to say, or if it was part whining, part defending, and part describing.

So I sat back down to the computer, I deleted the entire thing. And started again.

What do I want my boys to learn about contentment? I think of contentment as not only being happy with what you have, but BEING happy that you have what you NEED. Contentment comes from knowing that you will have what you need when you need it, not wanting what everyone else already has. Not believing that "if I just have this one more thing THEN I will be happy."


It can be a difficult concept.

When Steve and I were first married, we heard something once (I don't remember where now but I bet Steve does) that before you buy anything, you should ask yourself three questions...
Do I need it?
Do I want it?
Can I live without it?

The answers to these three questions help you to determine if the purchase is a wise one. And through the years we have used these three questions with different answers depending on the purchase.

Does this mean that they are not allowed to want things? I guess that depends on how you handle that desire. The kids often see other kids who have bigger something or more of something or something that we will not allow them to have. And both of them speak up about it. I know that they don't have a lot of things because of less than wise financial decisions that I made for our family. But the question also comes, would I get all of the things they want, even if I financially could? I'm not sure. We all want our kids to be happy and the modern world tries to convince us that kids need STUFF to be happy.

What I learned over the last six months was that our needs really are very few. We need food to eat. This has been in varying degrees met but the boys have never gone hungry, even if they do eat way too many processed foods since they're less expensive. They need clothing that fits. It doesn't mean they need the newest trends. When Noah recently grew out of pretty much every piece of clothing he had, his needs were met by a trip to the clearance racks at the mall. It may not have been the shirts he wanted, but he has the clothes he needs. We need a home. We came so incredibly close a few months ago to NOT having that shelter anymore that my wants and needs are now the same. I want to keep the house that we need. They are one in the same. I really don't want anything else. I want to meet my children's needs. I want a job in order to meet my family's needs.

I am working so hard to meet my children's needs right now that when the morning started with a wanting tantrum, I became very disheartened. We sat down with our devotional to discuss contentment and by the time the car pool mom pulled into the driveway, there were apologies, tears, and extra hugs before the boys headed out the door.

But now I sit here reading through my second version of my contentment post this morning and I wonder if I am displaying contentment enough to my kids. If I am, why would my kids still feel discontent? Am I showing enough appreciation that our needs are met or am I displaying unnecessary wants in front of them?

Is it normal for kids to want what other kids have? I suppose so. But I want to help them to be content with their needs being met. And as they get older I can encourage them to make smarter choices as they enter adulthood than I did. Then they won't have to go through this with their own children. They'll be able to make their own decisions about what they feel are wants vs. needs for their own families.


bethn said...

Amen to that my friend. My boys are going through the I want phase as well. They never have enough. As soon as they get what they think they want, they want something bigger and better. I am also struggling with how to teach them to weigh needs with wants. Here's hoping we will figure it out.

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

I think it really is normal for kids to want stuff - especially with all of the advertising thrown at them nowadays. Not that it's a good thing though... My kids also see things that their friends have and wonder why they can't always have the same things. And then they complain that they're bored or don't take care of the things they do have and we have to sit down and try to explain the whole concept of being thankful for what you've got instead of always wanting more... Ugh.

I do hate having to say no all the time right now though - even to just the little things like book orders, that normally aren't such a big deal. It's a good lesson for us as well as the girls though, I guess.

I probably needed to think more on contentment myself, so your post is timely for me too. I'm struggling a bit with that lately and probably should be modeling it better for my kids as well.

How are you doing? We've got to find a way to manage (and afford) that lunch one of these days soon!