Because there are often several of the same toy around here, the black Sharpie pen is my close companion. Small black initials appear on many of our toys as a way to proactively resolve issues of ownership.
We do not have 3 of everything. Roughly half of our toys are singles. The children have special toys that were gifted just to them individually, but there are still many toys that fall into the category of "community property." K has the ownership advantage because if anything pink, it obviously belongs to her. P has his own strategy lately. If a toy becomes special to him (particularly if it has also been the source of an argument or negotiation), he will bring it to me and ask me to write a P on it.
It has seemed like the appropriate time to introduce the concept of stewardship. Since my husband and I believe that starts with the recognition that God owns everything, we are merely borrowing it, some interesting conversations have occurred.
A few weeks ago, during her prayers, K said, "Thank you, God, for all yo' toys you keep at our house and lettin' us pway wiff dem."
Saturday morning P was pitching a fit over a small toy elephant. Although it is community property, P really likes it and R was playing with it. I was preoccupied with K, so I missed the specific conversation as Daddy resolved the issue. A few minutes later, P started to cry. When I asked him why he was upset he replied, "Because my favorite elephant belongs to God."
I was struck by his raw emotion. What a reflection of what my selfish little spirit feels sometimes. Can't that just be mine? Do I have to share everything? A reminder to teach the joy in the privilege of giving...not just the legalistic "you must," but the "we get to."
I am also challenged by how to manage what the world would teach about security in ownership and how my children "need" to know things are exclusively theirs versus what Scripture teaches "The Earth is the Lord's and all that is in it." (Psalm 24:1)
Lord, make us grateful not greedy. Help us to hold loosely to what You have entrusted us with. May we lean into You, not our stuff for security. Teach us to give our firstfruits, not our leftovers. May our lives model giving not grasping. What a treasure it is to be able to give back what has been yours all along!