Cultivating Contentment

zinnias 1There are so many things I want to give my children, but I’m convinced the greatest gift I can ever give them is a sense of contentment with what they already have. I’m learning it’s a daily lesson I must teach them – partly because the consumer culture in which we live sends the exact opposite message (and does it really well) and partly because I’m still learning this lesson myself (aren’t we all?).

In our home these days, Minecraft* is all the rage. Our boys play both Kindle and computer versions, watch walk-throughs on YouTube, and talk about the worlds they’ve created ad nauseum. (Fun fact: One of my Mother’s Day gifts was something our younger son “built” for me in Minecraft.)

The other day, our younger son heard someone refer to the original Minecraft (the one he’s using) as “vanilla.” Apparently there are all sorts of mods with new themes and add-ons, and using regular Minecraft is so last week. I bet you can guess what happened next: he asked when he could get one of these new mods. (Cue teachable moment) I gently reminded him how much he loved the original version of Minecraft until someone told him he should want something else/more. Then we talked about when and why to get something new, how looking forward to something can be almost as fun as getting it and how waiting can help us sort out impulses from real wants.

I’ll let you fill in his side of the conversation, keeping in mind that he’s 8 and is about as interested in my mini-lectures as I am interested in hearing about Minecraft – but we both feign interest pretty well. It’s a lifelong process, I know (did I mention I’m still learning this lesson myself?). But every year I see changes in his approach to stuff and have to smile when he parrots back what I’ve been preaching, saying things like “Mom, I know I’m blessed with lots of things and that I don’t need something new every time we go to the store, but . . .” (and then asking for whatever’s caught his fancy).

I know, our boys are no different than most children – but when they’re grown up, I’m hopeful they’ll be different from most adults.

* Minecraft – a computer game that focuses on building and mining, to find or create things in this imaginary world. Think of it like digital Legos (sort of) or find the nearest 8 year old and let him/her explain it to you.

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