Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

2016 began on a high, and after all the wins and challenges of 2015, there could be no better way to start the new year. I embrace all that this year has to offer, fully immersing myself in it, savoring every experience, and certainly making the most of everything I am grateful for. Part of this includes choosing the things that matter, over the basic trivial things we sometimes fuss over. This post was, in part, inspired by my son’s toys – Yeah, I am that person who draws parallels between life and just about anything.

Packing my son’s toys today gave me a good idea of just what choosing the stuff that matters entails. Part of my son’s toy collection includes hundreds of Lego blocks, cars, trains, lorries and a couple of stuffed animals, namely a duck, Eeyore (the donkey from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ cartoon) and a giraffe. As is his habit, he likes to scatter toys all over, I mean, you cannot possibly have a clean house with this ball of energy contained in the little mammal that my son is!

I have taught the little guy to pack his toys in the toys’ bag once he is done playing. Sometimes this packing is at 11PM on the days when, in his words, “sleep has gotten lost” (direct translation). On days like this, when he is too tired, I have to do the packing lest guys in this house start tripping over the multi-colored building blocks.

I picked his bag, and absentmindedly began packing the toys. In went the hundreds of blocks, the toy cars and lorries and duck-duck as he likes to call the stuffed duck. The toy train and Eeyore did not fit. This puzzled me for a minute because the bag is big enough, and certainly fits all toys on all other occasions.

And no, I did not get him any toys for his birthday this week, so how was this possible? Then it hit me, I always instructed him to put in the stuffed toys and big toy cars and trucks in first, because then the Lego blocks would be able to fit snugly in the spaces created by the big toys. Packing the blocks first means there wouldn’t be any spaces for the big toys to fit. When this reality dawned on me, I smiled to myself, because therein was a lesson for me, and hopefully for you too.

See, life consists of ‘big toys’ and ‘small toys’. The big toys constitute the things that matter for me: life partners, kids, friends, loved ones and a relationship with God. They are the things which, when stripped of everything else, will remain solid for the most part. The small toys are the things which, in my opinion, one can do without, and these vary from one person to another. Personally, the small toys are spending time online, catching up with my favorite movies, playing games and shopping.

The beauty of this parallel is the realization that giving priority to the ‘big toys’ means the ‘small toys’ will fall into place, almost seamlessly. By giving priority to the ‘small toys’, I automatically sideline the ‘big and more important toys’. With the latter comes a life imbalance that’s becomes difficult to restore, and for me, always feels like I am only catching my breath in what can be likened to a rat race.

Lately, I am learning how to prioritize the things that matter. I am learning to wake up early and spend time in prayer and devotion, because when life goes haywire, this is where I will turn to. I am learning how to make time to exercise, in the morning (because anything after 7AM is basically self-deception).

I am taking notes on putting my phone away when the son comes home from school, giving him undivided attention, whether it is doing his homework or telling me the day’s tales of what he learnt, who pissed him, what he ate for tea break and other short stories. (Side-note: I once asked him who he would give up first if a train came from the planets to take one of his classmates away, he had an answer. A subtle way of finding out who he likes, who he doesn’t and why. Ha! Motherhood).

I am taking time to listen to mama when she shares her day’s experience instead of half-listening as I play Temple Run. I am making reminders to call cucu just to check on her and know how she is faring. I am using sticky notes to remind me to connect with friends, not just virtually, but actually meeting, spending time and listening. Here is to re-learning the art of really listening, because at the end of the day, these are the things that matter. The things that make my world go round, the solid blocks that hold my life together. Putting in the ‘big toys’ first is what I am doing, today, tomorrow, the day after that …

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