Beyblades (spinning caps), hacky sacs, jacks, trading cards, swords…every culture has a version of these games. Made originally from rocks and wood whereby kids of long ago made them with their own hands, now we lazy parents depend on Hasbro and Lego to make them for us. Sure they seem more fun now – they light up, they make music and have tons of great accessories and cases to hold them. But history continues to repeat itself even in the world of toys.
The new Lego catalog came in the mail and my boys, even the Daddy, have been examining it in great detail…what’s cool, what’s worth giving up part of their allowance for, what has the bigger price tag to ask for the parents to buy, what’s reward worthy for the next taekwondo belt test. I look around my house and know that it is laden, supersaturated, with toys. Every room has my children’s spirits and possessions in it. Nothing is private or just for me. I keep thinking, my parents would shit if they saw all of this. But it is bliss for me. And while, I am appalled at the ease in which my children believe they will get more toys they want, I am relieved too. It is inevitable, a matter of time, that they will possess all they desire. Such feelings have never erupted in me. Such entitlement has been pushed so far down I don’t know what it would look like if I actually believed I deserve everything I want.
Instead, I am left thinking about my orphanage. That place was never far from my parents lips any time the conversations of games, toys and presents came up. To my kids, I realize it is just a story, nothing to tether them to. At times it bothers me that they own nothing of the orphanage experience I hold so close to my heart. But as my George will always remind me, do I really want them to feel as I do? Do I want them to feel responsible to others at such a young age? Do I want them to walk through life not feeling enough worth to ask for things? Is that the legacy I leave to them, the burden of memories not of their own making?
It is a fine balancing act to instill in children the idea of philanthropy, altruism and community without feeling like they need to lose their wits about them in the process. How do I teach sharing and taking turns without having my child feel like he has to give it all up or sacrifice his enjoyment at the same time. All or nothing. It is the way of the child and many grown ups too. What mixed messages we give – when you love something or someone, you give 100%. Well, not really. 100% is too much to request. I know I don’t want my boys to give up their whole self to one thing, one person, one idea…I was kind of hoping for some of themselves to stay with me even when they go off and love someone else.
Every few months we go through a clean-out, creating bags to give away. This is more for my boys than for the kids who get their toys. Finding a place who will take these toys continue to be a challenge. No one wants used toys, no matter how nicely I package it, make sure the batteries all work or ensure that all the parts to each game is accounted for. Most places only want new toys, with a new package of batteries, thank you very much. I get that we don’t want disadvantaged kids to feel poor. I certainly do not want kids to feel like they are only worth the hand-me-downs of some other kid. It is dispiriting to never own something new, to possess something first. So, what is the right thing to do? It isn’t enough to just send money elsewhere. I have seen too much happen to that money NOT going to the children it is intended.
Where am I going with this? Here is my idea of how I might begin the process of instilling an awareness of others. I want my kids to see my orphanage, I want them to see Korea through my eyes. Neither the Home nor Korea is anywhere near the destitute circumstances it was back in 1976. Still, they will absorb what they need from the experience. It is not because I want to make them feel guilty about what they have. I want them to be able to know that my history is their history in a rather unique way. There aren’t too many kids out there who can have that legacy. I am proud of where I came from. I wouldn’t change my story one bit. It has made me a citizen of the world in a way that others only give lip service to. It makes me know “the others”- I can see the faces and know the names of those orphans. I can think of very little else I can give my boys of a past that is them but not them. This is part of being born to a mother who is internationally adopted.