I was busy preparing for the my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson’s arrival for a summer week. I stocked the pantry with breakfast bars, Ritz crackers, and goldfish. The fridge was filled with watermelon and grapes and cheese.
The most important preparation was the patio wading pool. I made careful selection of just the right one at WalMart. I found plastic sea creatures: seahorses, shells, a stingray, and other generic fish. I really wanted some boats but there were none to be found there. As a matter of fact, there were no boats in several stores. After I lamented to a grandmother friend, she arrived with a bag full of boats on the first wading pool afternoon. The orange submarine, complete with sonar sounds and a plastic propeller, sped around the pool, slipping beneath the other boats floating on the surface.
Eventually the plastic dump truck and the plastic fire truck joined the boats in the pool. Why not? We’re trying not to saddle this toddler with shoulds and oughts and rules about playing in the water.
At the end of the day, we drained the pool, hosed out the dirt, and refilled it for tomorrow.
Every day the pool was full of toys, but his interest in the boats and fish began to wane, though he loved the water and wanted to stay outside. So we suggested he water Gramma’s flowers using a yellow plastic cup. By the end of the afternoon he had carried half the water in the pool to the garden, one cup at a time. Often, by the time he got to the flowers, there was no water left in his cup. Somehow, he had lost it all on the way. Back and forth he toddled, refilling his cup, and carrying it across the patio to the flowers, which was way more interesting than the boats and fish.
But wait, there’s more. In the days that followed, the yellow cup became the favorite toy. With that cup, we could pour water on his head, on his back, on his knees, and on his hands. When we poured from an adult height it became a waterfall he could walk beneath. The yellow cup became a way to throw water in the air, without being sure exactly where it would land. The fun and a little fear were mixed together — he was never sure if he really wanted the water to land on his head or not but he wasn’t willing to quit. His shock and surprise as the water hit him was always accompanied by giggles and laughter and little boy words, “Do it again, Gramma.”
I tell you this story to remind myself and you that we don’t need all the toys and all the stuff to guarantee our children and grandchildren have a good time. A yellow plastic cup and a tub of water is more than enough.
The same is true for us grownups. We don’t need a lot of stuff to guarantee our happiness. A peanut butter sandwich shared with a friend is more than enough. A lunch of cheese and crusty bread while overlooking the ocean’s crashing waves is more than enough. Conversation on a park bench is more than enough.
Life is never about the stuff. Neither is happiness.
Happiness is about being in the moment, enjoying what we already have.
Until next Tuesday. . .