There's the start of a college education in the back of my car. There's been a small down payment on a house and a gently used vehicle back there too. I've carted away a cleaning service, a couple of moving men, and a contractor who could have done some serious home repairs.
Futures have ended up in the back of my car and have been carried off to charities and day care centers in the form of plastic: children's toys.
We want to make our children happy. We seek to find what tweaks and delights their imaginations. And as we can't know what that might be, we buy everything. We buy the toys and games that require screens and thumbs, ones that will make them exercise and move, that came from those sci-fi movies and fantasy films, that are manipulative and crafty, that are educational, ones that are simply great family fun.
The first problem of so much and so many is we buy in bulk and we buy big. We treat toys, games, dolls, Beanie Babies and giant stuffed animals as though they were our emergency supplies of paper products and canned food. The second problem is that as adults, we have to schedule play time, and when that's not possible we buy another game or toy and hope the kids will automatically know how to enjoy it. The third problem, and I tread carefully here, are the grandparents.
In every home that I have encountered where toys have been strewn throughout the house, piled high in corners, and unapologetically covered every bit of visible floor space, I have had the client whisper to me, "It's my mother-in-law...it's my ex-mother-in-law...it's my mother...it's my stepmother. They just won't stop. It's not like they wrap a present or two for Christmas or birthday. They come with something every time they visit. They send things from wherever they are. They shop and send all year long."
And so, in showing their love for the children, in gleefully whipping out cash and credit cards for the newest bits of plastic, grandparents have unknowingly destroyed the very homes they would like to visit. They could have opened a savings account for that child or bought services for their families, but that just doesn't come with the wrappings and trappings of what we expect at those parties and holidays. They think a practical gift won't get squeals of delight and hugs and kisses or label them "the best" in the category of grandmas and moms. Think again.
One of my clients is not well. She requires numerous doctors and medications. She is young and pretty and should not be battling this illness. She has two young daughters and a husband who is working long, hard hours. They have all been in the house for several years and not everything is yet unpacked from their former apartment... or their wedding. She's tired, and she's battling for space, clarity and her health every day. Clutter is everywhere. It's been that way since she was diagnosed. She's one of many women facing nightmares with a smile. *
She not only needs my services and the storage units, hangers, and shelving I will be hauling in, she needs someone to come in and move out some furniture. She needs a flat screen installed that's been lying around for a few years. She needs the leaks fixed. She needs the walls painted. She needs a rug pulled up. She needs bureaus for her daughters. Most importantly, she needs to set an example for her daughters, a basic rite of motherhood that is currently impossible.
In a house where someone is ill, where someone is aging, where people are busy, where trips to the doctor vacuum up what time there is, where fatigue and confusion reign, things and stuff will fall and be left to stay where they may. People desperately need help. Instead, love comes through the front door in the form of plastic and bits of silly.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if she had someone come in once a week to do the laundry, to tackle that growing pile of dishes and do a bit of cleaning so she didn't face this daily confusion? Wouldn't it be great if those leaks were fixed and the mold would stop, so she could have a room to call her own? Unable to work, wouldn't she have peace of mind if she knew someone had started a savings account for her daughters' education?
I remind you of a story I shared a few years ago of a gentleman who ran a clean-out business in Philadelphia. When I asked him what his most challenging job was, he replied that he had just removed one ton, 2,000 pounds, of books and toys from one home that had only two children. It was all still in his trucks and vans and he didn't know what to do with all of it. I suggested that he look into day care centers, and after-school programs in a five-mile radius and share the wealth. Having done this myself from the back of my own car, I knew he would be treated like a hero. He was.
Glittery pumpkins and spicy candles were on the shelves with the school supplies, and we know that December's holiday colors and characters are already vying for retail space. Grandmothers, I know you've been holiday shopping since things went on sale last January. I know you're willing to stand in line or live by your computer for the newest toys and games. I ask you to unite in love and common sense to make this a different holiday for your families. See their situation for what it is. Ask how you can help. Change lives. Give them what they really need and want. You'll be the favorite. I promise.
*In any personal story, the family structure has been changed as to maintain client privacy.