My son BooBoo has a lot of friends. He’ll be the first to tell you that popularity has its perks, what with birthday parties every weekend, the benefit of everyone knowing your name, and of course, no shortage of people to play with.
When the school year started, BooBoo met a kid named Matthew and the two became fast friends. They bonded over a mutual love of tetherball, the trials of being a younger brother, and undoubtedly, how to succeed in first grade without really trying. It came as no surprise a month into the school year when BooBoo asked the inevitable question, “Can Matthew come over to our house to play? Of course.
Matthew’s mom and I did the usual meet and greet. I invited her over pre-playdate to see our home and get to know me a little better. She asked about house rules. I asked about any food allergies. And soon Matthew was dropped off for an epic day o’ play, and fun was had by all.
A sweet and mild boy, Matthew treated our home with an overwhelming degree of respect and most have exclaimed, “You have so much toys!” at least half a dozen times.
Matthew came over to play a few more times before his mom insisted BooBoo come play at their house, which happened to be a two bedroom apartment. “Mom, Matthew has to share a room with his brother and it’s really small,” BooBoo confided to me in a near whisper, “they don’t have that much stuff to play with.”
Now what that really means, I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t take inventory of the haves and have nots within their home, but what I do know from talking to Matthew’s mom is that finances have been tight for the last few years. She works a full-time job in retail while her husband is on disability for a work-related injury. As decent, hard-working Christian people, Matthew’s parents are good folks and great parents who keep a perfectly lovely modest home.
While this family of four may not have much by BooBoo’s or other people’s standards, they’re happy and teaching my son some very valuable lessons in the process.
1. Less is more
In most kids’ minds (mine included), more sugar/toys/screen time equates to more happiness. BooBoo’s friendship has made him realize that while Matthew has less, he’s just as happy. Armed with a bike, an assortment of sports balls, art supplies, and a steady stream of books from our local library, Matthew is a busy and creative kid who’s always smiling. BooBoo has never once returned from a playdate at Matthew’s house having anything less than the time of his life.
2. Necessity is the mother of invention
While Matthew was undoubtedly impressed with the “so much toys!” stash in our home, he found the giant leftover boxes from a recent bathroom remodel to be the coolest of them all. Soon the toy stash was a distant memory with Matthew and BooBoo building a life-sized robot named “Bob-bot.”
3. He has too much
“Mom, I feel bad that I don’t play with all this stuff. I used to like it all, but not anymore and I can never find what I’m looking for in my toy box.” BooBoo lamented. While it’s natural for kids to outgrow toys, in a lot of ways BooBoo’s right. He has a lot of stuff he no longer uses or cares about. Does he need so much stuff? Absolutely not.
4. He’s lucky
“We have four TVs, Mom. Matthew only has one. They only have one computer too, and it doesn’t work good. We’re lucky.” BooBoo’s absolutely right in thinking we’re lucky, because we are. Our family has been blessed in so many ways and it gives me great joy to see him recognize it.
5. Giving feels good
“Mom, I have all these toys I don’t want anymore. Can I give them to Matthew?” Of course! (But only if he wants them.) BooBoo proudly brought a box of Beyblades, Pokémon cards, action figures, and Hot Wheels to Matthew’s house and proudly left them there (but not before playing with them first).
6. Pity is pointless
“It’s sad that Matthew doesn’t have a lot.” BooBoo told me with a heavy heart.
“Does he need anything he doesn’t have?” I asked.
“Well then, I think Matthew is doing just fine. All he needs is your friendship and support.”
“I already give him that, Mom!”
“Seems to me you’ve given him the gift of a lifetime.”
7. It’s not about the stuff
“Matthew said he only got two presents for Christmas, Mom. That’s sad.” BooBoo told me.
“But did he like the presents? Was he happy?” I asked.
“Yes. He’s always happy.”
“So maybe Matthew didn’t need a lot of presents to have a good Christmas then?”
“He didn’t, Mom. His grandma was here and they had fun.”
BooBoo went on to tell me that the best part of his Christmas was being with family that he doesn’t get to see all the time … and of course, the one soda I allowed him to have.