I took two of my little children with me to town today. They both had dental appointments and since every child draws a sibling name for Christmas, we had a little bit of shopping to do as well.
I don't usually take just Ben, age 5, or Mariam, age 4, with me to town. We're usually in a group with all of the other kids or they are at home with an older sibling.
Thew were so cute, so excited to be going somewhere. (That's kinda sad, huh? We're home a lot.) They had showers and brushed their teeth extra good and Mariam put on her Christmas dress. (Red velvet with white cuffs. Because going to the dentist is a Big Deal for her. She made Ben wear a red sweater with a train on it because she wanted him to match her. The world truly is her stage, and everyone else has either a supporting role or is a bit actor.)
The dentist with his spit-sucking machine and trial-sized tubes of sparkly toothpaste was a huge hit with my little ones. They had so much fun you would have thought it was Disneyland. But the excitement was just about to begin.
We went to McDonalds.
(Yes! I know! So exciting!!!)
Funny thing is - it really was exciting - for them.
And this was such a good mom moment - one of those rare times when I realize I have done something right.
We stood in line and my little ones did not know what to order. They did not know about Happy Meals. They did not whine between chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers.
They felt so big to just *be there.* Catsup in little cups? How cool is that? A TOY in the bag? A boy toy and a girl toy? For real?
And a play place, too?
Ben didn't even know where to put his shoes. He didn't realize there is a shoe shelf - he thought he was supposed to line his shoes up nicely along the outside of the netting. They were so excited to see other children there, and a baby too! Oh my - life does not get better than this.
A part of me felt pathetic, as in, how sad is this? My boy is five, and he doesn't remember ever going to McDonald's? A part of me felt old, as in, "has it really been this long? Where has the time gone?" I used to be a regular back when I only had three little ones. It was a cheap way to socialize - the three of them couldn't even finish two $1 sandwiches at that point.
But another part of me felt great, as in, "Really? I have succeeded in growing children in my America, into the latter part of 2011, and they don't know they have the right to whine for ice cream at Mickey D's?"
I've heard so many grown-ups complain this year because they don't know what to give the children in their lives: "They aren't excited about anything," they say. "They've already got it all," another grandmother told me. "My toys won't interest them."
Now, I have no room to be pompous - my floors are cluttered with toys as I type. My children have so much more than they truly need in the toy department, and my husband and I have no delusions that we can keep our children from all forms of materialism. We're all greedy over something.
But we have chosen a fairly simple life for our little ones, purposefully. No cable, no Wii, no network television with hyped marketing. There's nothing wrong with those things, so please don't think I'm judging (except for the hyped marketing comment.) I'm not. I think we would enjoy any of those things in another season. There's just so many interesting things going on with so many children and so many ages living here - that we don't miss the things we don't include. Like McDonalds. They'd never asked, I'd never taken them.
There is an answer to children who are already bored with the stuff of life: give them less things, and more of you.
These little ones know about taking cans to church for the food pantries. They know about sending packages and letters and praying for Compassion and World Vision kids. They know how to pray for the hungry and the hurting. (And okay, just so you know they're real, they have days where they fight like cats and dogs and turn up their noses at what I've made for supper and cry when they have to go to bed...around these parts we can construct a hierarchy of needs/wants/ownership very quickly when we are so inclined.)
But they didn't know about McDonalds, and they didn't know they deserved it. They both said "thank you, mommy, for taking us to McDonalds," from the back seat on the way home. Without prompting. I was stunned.
That doesn't make me feel better than anyone else, because I have my failings along with every other mother on the planet.
But it does give me hope, and makes me feel very grateful to the Lord for these precious little ones He's given me to raise. I think if we knew how much influence we have been given in our children's lives, of just how much consequence we have for them (and I'm not really talking here about what they eat, but rather, in their hearts and spirits,) we would scarcely be able to get out of bed in the mornings - the responsibility and our role would seem too great. It's simply....huge. There are no guarantees with raising children - but we can guarantee that we will always be the foundation under their feet, and we can always turn them toward the Cross.
I may not have given my little ones Happy Meal entitlement; but they know they have the right to their dad and me (to relationship) at any time they have a want or need. There's so much I can't give my children; but so much that I can.
I hope that helps them grow up "healthy" in more ways than one.