It's a challenge to teach that the simple things can make us

December 26, 2003|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

How's it going at your house?

The holiday dinner was devoured, the gifts ripped opened and seasonal sentiments shared.

All the things we planned for months are over, and the cleanup has begun.

Have you found your kids yet? I think mine are hiding under the wrapping paper. For the last week or so, they've entertained themselves with empty cardboard wrapping paper tubes. It only stands to reason that they'd make a crumbled wrapping paper and empty box fort today.

I warned my 8-year-old a few weeks ago that he would not receive everything on his four-page, neatly printed, itemized Christmas wish list. (Each thing was listed by catalog, page number, item number, name and price. He said he just wanted to make things easier for us.)

Then I told him I expected him to be content with the presents he received.

He got a sheepish look on his face and said, "I know that, Mom."


Because I know other parents probably wonder how to best raise a contented child - especially at this time of year - I thought I'd ask some experts to give us guidance.

Unfortunately, a Google search for contentedness only found sites giving the word's definition or sites that tell how to meditate your way to spiritual oneness.

Not exactly what I had in mind.

Then I saw a truly intriguing comment by a local teenager.

"I'm pretty content with what I have," said Casey Seitz, a 17-year-old senior at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Casey was interviewed by my colleague and good friend Kate Coleman for a story about holiday gifts.

I thought it was pretty unusual for a teen to say that, so I wanted to find out what Casey's parents did right.

Casey's mom, Ruth Lutz, was a little surprised by my follow-up question. She said she'd have to think about what advice she'd give to other parents.

We played phone tag for a couple of days. On one of my attempts to reach Lutz, I chatted with Casey.

"She didn't make a big deal out of toys or brand-name clothing," Casey said.

She also taught her children to value what is really important.

"I'm a strong Christian," Casey said. "I feel that if there's something I don't have, there's a reason I don't have it."

What a great outlook. And what peace we all would have, not just at this season, but all year long, if we would think the same.

But how does a parent teach that to a child?

By giving gentle, consistent reminders of the things we do have: A place to live, food on the table, clothes on our back.

My children often hear me say how wonderful it is to have a warm bed, family members to hug and a yard to play in.

Some children don't have those things.

It's the simple things in life that can make us the most content.

The early Christian evangelist Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, reminds believers that we have brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content," I Timothy 6:8.

Likewise, if we have a few empty toy boxes to serve as a fort while we're dueling with wrapping paper tubes, who needs more?

Perhaps we should all spend a night in a stable, on a bed of straw, surrounded by animal smells and sounds.

Gee, that would make the thought of Christmas returns seem quite ridiculous.

Pardon me, I think I see an extra tube that's begging to be used in this fray.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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