Touched, Served, Gifted

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Motherhood Moments

There’s a commercial on TV these days for Kleenex. The woman goes around frantically murmuring, “touch…touch…touch…” Finally she gets to the Kleenex box and all time stops while she has this surreal, spiritual moment labeled “feel.”

This ad has always bugged me because it shoves human touch into the category irritant, while holding up an inanimate object as something beautiful, elevated, apart. (And because Puffs are a lot softer anyway!)

Moms often talk about feeling “touched out.” I understand this concept, but it doesn’t happen to me very often, because in the languages of love, I’m a “touch” person. I used to bicker with Christian because I craved that sense of touch, and I didn’t want to have to be the instigator. In the last three to four years, that has gone away, because I have young children. I get touched a lot. If I plop down with the telephone, it’s a signal for all three of them to crawl on me and fight for a piece of my body.

Generally, I glory in this. I chew on my babies, I tickle, I hug—as far as I’m concerned, the best thing about having young children is the constant tactile connection.

For Christian, whose language is “acts of service,” this is all good news. He tires of physical contact very quickly. He likes his personal space. But I’ve warned him that when the kids get older, he’d better watch out!

But there’s more to this than just what I need. It’s also about what my family needs. In my ongoing struggles to find balance, I constantly wrestle with this idea: that I should be keeping the house better as an act of service to my husband. And in the last week, I’ve realized that Alex is old enough to have a primary love language, too. His is gifts. He has spent the entire last week making art projects as gifts for me and for Christian. Then he made drawings to hang over every bed in the house, specific to each person.

Aside from being impossibly sweet, this illuminated another tendency of Alex’s: the constant desire for more and new stuff. He wants a physical memento of every experience—something as simple as a rock picked up from the gravel driveway at Grandma and Grandpa’s farm will do. He’s only 5, and already we have no idea what to do with all the junk on his dresser. We come down hard on him for always demanding new toys every time we go to an air show, a carnival, Bonkers, Target… All this time, I’ve fretted about greed and flightiness. But maybe it’s just that gifts are the way in which he most clearly feels our love for him.

And this presents me with a quandary: How do I reconcile the need to honor and affirm his primary love language with my own aversion to consumerism and clutter and useless Stuff? With the real belief that kids have too much—far more than they need—and that giving them Stuff leads to a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction, to them feeling that nothing is ever good enough?

So, my dear readers, I need your help. I know there must be a way to “gift” my son without capitulating to the consumeristic culture. But I’m at a loss. What am I missing?

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8 thoughts on “Touched, Served, Gifted

  1. 1. One of the things that scares me most about motherhood is the fact that I know that I will be drained from all the touching and talking that goes along with small children 24/7. It is great that the physical contact part is good for you!

    2. This is obviously just a guess, but is it possible that a lot of the need for possessions and physical mementos is part of the stage? I seem to remember having a lot of “stuff” at that age, and I know that my younger siblings were such pack rats we called my little sister “the bag lady” because she would always carry around bags to fill with things. We all (mostly) grew out of it eventually.

    Also, since he takes pleasure in things such as rocks and crafts, can you show him love through gifts that don’t necessarily cost you anything? If you combined that with helping him go through a regular process of getting rid of things and only keeping the most important, that might keep things under control.

    And yes, I know nothing. 🙂

      • Becky

        I agree “gifts that don’t cost you anything” Can YOU draw him a picture of HIS experiences and start a collection in a binder or something similar? I like the purging idea too, and if he helps with the purge than he learns from it too.

  2. Renee G

    I am not a believer in buying souvenirs every where we go esp since we lived overseas for 6 yrs…. but what we do have of trips are postcards – we have a postcard from just about every place we visited (inexpensive but easy to maintain in a photo album)…. and we have lots of photos. Maybe an inexpensive camera for him to have a tangible pic….. as soon as you give in to a thing from every place you have created a habit that may never end (imo)

  3. Cecelia

    I second the postcard suggestion. My scrapbooks are full of pages labeled “postcards from all over” and my friends still know to send me postcards when they go someplace cool. They hang on my fridge for months. But in the beginning (as a child) I bought because that was the only souvenir I could afford.

    They are also manageable – you have a single binder or book where he keeps them, and he gets the pride of seeing them add up and his collection build.

    The other thing to remember is that the gifts may be more precious when they aren’t constant. I have this very distinct memory of walking into my room one day and seeing a cute red white and blue flowered top lying on my bed – totally unexpectedly. Mom had bought it for me at Walmart on a whim – which she pretty much NEVER did because there were so many hand-me-downs after four girls that it was rare for me to get new clothes other than jeans. I was so touched.

  4. Therese Sander

    I liked the last comment: “gifts may be more precious when they aren’t constant.” I remember the mother of one of the girls in Tamara’s class telling me that because their daughter was an only child, they could afford to give her everything on her Christmas list, but they always deliberately did not buy one thing so that she would know what it felt like to yearn for something she could not have. I don’t know if they accomplished what they were striving for, but it was interesting to hear this mom trying to find a way to not raise a spoiled brat.

    I have another suggestion, teach him the joy of giving by having him choose one thing (not a broken ratty toy) from his collection to give away to a needy child. This can be part of the purging process.

  5. We’ve thought @ the needy child thing often; so far we haven’t done it b/c we have other children always coming up. But I’ve also been looking for other ways to “gift” him. I stumbled upon a free button at the jewelry store last week when I was waiting for someone to clean my ring; it says “I AM LOVED.” Alex has worn it every day since, and without me once asking.

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