"Can I bring two toys?" he asked after I announced we are getting ready to go grocery shopping. "Yes," I confirmed. Sometimes he asks to bring three but the norm is one per hand. A few minutes go by and I hollered out, "Where are you?" as I loaded his baby sister in the Volvo. "I'm getting my toys!" he responded. You see this is a big decision for a 3 year 11 month old little boy. He wants to bring his most prized possessions. Which two will enjoy the car ride during our morning adventure? Which two are his favorites of the day?
He settled on a police SUV that lights up and a Mighty World police man. He loves these simple toys that fit nicely in his growing big boy hands. The truck was a gift from his aunt and the action figure was one of his first given to him at his second Christmas. I thought to myself just this week how much use he has gotten out of those little guys. Even Babydoll carries one around here changing out it's hat and hair piece.
I hit the road with bundled Bundles in the back seat. The skies were blue and the sun was shining bright on this brisk 40 something late fall day. Winter is coming.
As we pulled into the parking lot, Brother undoubtedly asked, "Does it say no toys allowed?" I often read him signs telling him the rules about playgrounds (no dogs allowed) and fast food play areas (no shoes allowed). I have made other rules for libraries and big chain stores (no toys allowed). So sometimes a cherished toy makes the trip in the car but is not able to come inside with us. Not today. "Yes you can bring your toys," I answered his expected question.
I didn't find any car shaped carts which is actually better because I can never fit everything I need to buy in those things. Bundle Brother hit the streets with his jeans tucked into his solider rain boots, puffy brown vest layered over his brown thermal shirt and topped with his dad's old "solider hat". I could freeze this exact little boy in time and keep him forever.
We started into the store talking a lot about all the huge veggies we saw in the produce aisle. "Look at that sweet potato! It is as big as your head!" He lifted the spud next to his cheek to measure scale. "And wow! Check out this tomato! Isn't God amazing?! He made this." I said. He picked up the cucumber in the bin next door and married them together announcing they were Bob and Larry. I laughed at his wit.
The kids did really well this shopping trip unlike last time just before Thanksgiving. The shoppers who were blessed to be amongst us then were both thankful to see us go and happy my kids did not belong to them.
Today Sissy Doll had managed to eat her way through half a sleeve of graham crackers when Brother yelled out, "MY TOYS!" I told him he left them in the car and then I remembered his hands being full as he tried to walk Babydoll through the parking lot. "Do you remember where you left them?" I asked. He has a very vivid memory. With it being the first of the month there is no way I was going to weave up and down the aisles again in search of a couple toys that could be anywhere three feet from the ground or lower. "They are by the bananas," he recalled. That made sense. By the time we got to the tiny chilies he was definitely empty handed. We ventured back. No sign of them. We continued with our shopping through the cold sections and I talked to him about the lost and found. He was intrigued. He kept asking me how it worked.
Once finished we got in line to check out. He started to melt thinking we were going to abandon his precious gifts somewhere alone in the store. I pledged that we would go to the lost and found when we were done buying our groceries. As I stood there paying for our basket of food, Bundle Boy yelled out, "That little boy has my truck!!!!" Two cash registers over was a man with four young kids that looked two and three years old. I didn't see the truck. I said a few words to Brother as I finished my transaction. He said it again. "That little boy has my truck!" He started to cry when he realized I wasn't going after them to retrieve them. They were exiting the store just before us.
The family didn't hear or see us. That is when I knew this was going to be a hard lesson for a three year old. I knelt down and told him that maybe that little boy needed the truck more than him. That maybe he doesn't have a lot of toys and this little truck would make his day really happy. I told him we could go to the lost and found and ask about the police man. Apparently Brother noticed that the little boy had it too. He was crying by now. Not a tantrum cry but an I-am-so-disappointed cry. He loved those toys. In fact, he chose those toys to bring with him so he could enjoy them while he was out on my errand. He didn't choose to bring toys that wouldn't have bothered him if they got lost (which is what we as adults would have done). He brought his favorite toys of the day.
We walked out of the store. He grabbed my hand and whimpered while clearly upset. The woman pushing our groceries out to the car was trying desperately to cheer him up as we journeyed to our far away parking spot. He buried his head in my leg as we walked. Sometimes no amount of encouraging words can get you out of how bummed you feel. I tried to explain to her what happened but English was her second language. As she loaded our trunk I put my most precious gifts in their car seats and one car lane over I saw the father loading four little kiddos in to his car (perhaps all his?). I saw the car in the boy's hand while my son sat crying in the second row.
I tipped the lady (that is just what you do here) and went to buckle my sweet boy in. I told him how proud I was of him and how it makes God smile when we don't demand our own way but think of others before ourselves. I reminded him how happy those toys made him and how happy they will make that little boy. I told him that God has given us everything we have and we have to be willing to let it go even when we aren't ready. I also told him that Christmas was coming and he would be getting more toys. ;) What? He is only three.
How easy it would have been for me to walk over to that guy and tell him that those toys belong to MY son. That he just accidentally set them down while we talked about spinach and that HIS boy should give them back to their rightful owner. How we are entitled to have them returned and my son loves them very much. I could have said it nicely and quietly enough as to not cause a scene. But in exchange for my son's tears would have been his son's.
Would that have pleased God? Would that have taught my son (and myself) that this world is not our home and we deserve nothing in this life?
Sometimes disappointing things happen. I am beyond thankful that the list of disappointing things during his nearly four years of life has been very short and extremely trivial. But how will we respond to each circumstance that crosses our path? Will we say yes Lord use me however best brings you glory? Will we deny self when the opportunity arises? Will we spend time searching for the best gifts that we have been given and still be willing to give them up at a moment's notice?
Five minutes into the drive home my heart was heavy for my little boy. He welled up with quiet tears a couple more times when he realized he would never get to play with those toys again. The mama bear inside me wants him never to be sad or disappointed. He was halfway through a cheese stick (which instantly brightened his mood) and he announced, "I can play with my 'nother toys!"
That's right, Little Buddy. God has given you more than enough. Are we willing to let him use the best that we have however he sees fit?!
You can be sure the next time Brother looks for two toys to bring with him to the grocery store, he will reach for his favorite of the day once again. Will I be so quick to do the same?