Kids Need Trash, Not Toys


We obviously didn’t want to return from vacation. We made two overnight pit-stops on the way home. One in Fort Walton for some beach play, and then one in Birmingham, or “Neighborham” as Ellie called it.

The Sheraton staff put us on the quiet floor. The one with a sign posted asking everyone to be quiet at all times during the day for the benefit of exhausted travelers…. They don’t know us very well do they? We didn’t get any complaints. I guess we did okay.

Ellie (3) and Caleb (5) played happily in the hotel room pretending the room-key cards could turn them into all kinds of animals, and that Baby Levi was a lion in a cage (crib). Watching them my husband, Justin, said “Kids don’t need toys, they just need trash.”

Trash? I burst out laughing. It was such a “Justin” statement. Should I have warned him? Doesn’t he realize that anything said or done could potentially become a blog post?

He’s not wrong. Although, I probably wouldn’t have said trash…

Like the average child, my children love toys, and believe they can never have too many. What they don’t realize is that they are happiest when they are playing with the “treasures” they find. Sticks. Rocks. The crab claws they stuck in their pocket from dinner (ew…). Bottle caps. Key cards. The giant shipping box.

There is nothing like watching the unabashed awe on my children’s faces in the land of Disney magic. But, you want to know my favorite vacation memory? Listening to my children concocting pretend games in the back of the van, giggling, and driving me a little crazy with their volume level.

We’re mean parents. We opted out of the installed DVD player. Our kids get a portable one they have to share with a battery life of two hours. When that expires we make them look out the windows, and see what they can see.

When there is nothing left besides what they can find or imagine, they have a lot less to fight over. (It’s not a foolproof theory. I do have a fond memory I like to recount of Caleb and Ellie fighting over a dirty diaper…literal trash in this instance…never did understand what that was about.)

Last night I had the opportunity to enjoy some one-on-one time with Caleb. My inquisitive and sensitive child has had a lot of questions lately about why people die. Little tears leaked out of the corners of his big blue eyes as he said, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to go to heaven. I don’t know anyone who has been there.”

We snuggled under a fluffy pile of blankets and talked awhile. The kid doesn’t go easy on me. He wants all the theological details. His eyes watered up again, and he said, “When I go to heaven, I want to take my toys with me.” I grinned and kissed his little sun-tanned nose.

There’s no use explaining everything in a single evening, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to teach him every day that we do get to take with us all the things that truly matter. It isn’t the stuff that comes from the store. Its experiences like playing pretend with his sister in the backseat of the van. It’s enjoying being out in God’s creation. It’s making the discovery that the condition of our soul is far more important than any material circumstance.

This craving for “stuff” is not exclusive to children. We are just as prone, if not more so, to become distracted by what everyone else around us has. We think we need certain material things to reach higher levels of happiness. In my counseling days, I can assuredly say that the people who were the most unhappy were the ones that had more than they knew what to do with. They drowned in their material possessions. They were more afraid of losing a certain standard of life than they were concerned about their path of self-destruction.

I imagine the Lord looks down on all of us, like I look on at my children, and waits for us to realize that we are happiest when we immerse ourselves in moments with Him. When we detach ourselves from our craving for earthly gain, and embrace the things we can take with us. When we glory in the treasures we find as we seek the face of God.

Happy Wednesday Everybody!

2 thoughts on “Kids Need Trash, Not Toys

  1. Well put! So encouraging to know my child isn’t the only one that worries about death (mine and/or hers) and doesn’t want to go to heaven because she’ll leave her toys and her house. Another tough question I get is “why are people mean?” Always an adventure with inquisitive children! Such a fun read and easy to relate too!


  2. Kids are amazing. Their perception is unreal, and they keep me on my toes with their questions. I try my best to be entirely honest with my answers, while not muddling things with stuff they aren’t ready to understand. No easy feat!!


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