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When Two is Too Many

By Brooke Benton

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Beneath the rubble of Christmas morning, I chanced upon a small dolly, cozily tucked up to his armpits in a red and green felt stocking. I could call the gesture motherly, but I knew better by the skew of his striped nightcap, and then, by the presence of foil-wrapped chocolate Santas still underneath his feet: he was being ignored.

Surely this was wrong! My five year old loves dolls! Or, as I’ve learned: a doll. Singularly. Just one. The doll’s name is “Amy-lissa” and she is loved and revered and loved and cuddled and loved. (And loved.) She naps in a crib made from a cardboard box reinforced with packing tape and more cardboard; she’s warmed in a blankie knit especially for her, when, snowy night, movie on, old yarn from my bin, my daughter was unpicky about the colors and corrected me with a patient tsk when I referred to Amy-lissa as a toy. (I used the last length of my fluffy red wool as penance.)

Measuring the probability of distraction and oversight on this new doll, and wanting justice for the situation (ie: reassurance at my Christmas present to her), I paused amid my garbage run and took the new baby to my daughter playing with Amy-lissa and squatting to their level introduced them:  “Did you see this? I think it’s a little brother for Amy-lissa.”

My five year old, pink-cheeks flecked with chocolate croissant and cocoa from breakfast, took a deep breath and sighed dramatically at her plight:

“Mom.” She paused, her brown eyes were liquid, deep, certain: “It’s too hard to love two babies. You can have him.”

Because I’m in love with my daughter as much as she’s in love with her Amy-lissa, the point made me laugh inside even as I nodded seriously and hugged her, her hair wild against my cheek. I felt her shoulders unburden as I promised: “I will.”

She is wise, my little girl. I’m more Mae West I suppose, and too much of a good thing is wonderful—if one pair of boots makes me feel cute, then one every season will probably make me feel like a goddess, and if one square of dark chocolate in the evening makes me happy, then the entire bar promises bliss, nirvana, heaven, transcendence…

(Where was I again?)

Anyway, I wonder now, about this abundance. I wonder why it is a struggle to be grateful when often times our needs are not really needs, but mere wants—and everything given is in excess, in “addition to.”

Does abundance make it harder to appreciate what we have? Are too many “things” a distraction? Do we take our blessings for granted, seeking the next thing? Or do we accept what we have as enough? And do we know, that when we truly appreciate the one, it blooms into a blessing more abundant? Because gratitude will do that—and multiply our blessings worth like light through a prism.

Eventually, I send the baby boy doll back to Amazon, tucked snugly into his box with a little wish of finding his rightful girl cuddled against his fabric body. I send him away with that hope because he was adorable and I did want to keep him (and his wonderfully scented head that smelled like my childhood), but knew his destiny with us would be to languish in our playroom, buried in a bin.  He simply wasn’t needed here: my daughter was content with what she already had, not empty by what she lacked.

Somewhere I bet there’s a little girl with his name on her heart and she will spoil him with the homemade accoutrement that he deserves. In that spirit, I am happy to send him away, happy to say my daughter is the proud owner of one doll. Because now I see that when we truly love what we already have (and maybe it’s just one thing), that one is enough.

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

16 thoughts on “When Two is Too Many”

  1. Thank you for your thoughts on gratitude and the excesses we find in our society. What a blessing to have a child that loves just one.

    My thought went back to the ability to love more than one and I was worried that this might be a metaphor for loving only one child or others of the Lord's family.

    I'm glad it didn't come down that way, but it does nag at the back of my mind.

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  2. The week before my second child was born, I was crying in the shower because I just didn't know how I would ever love another child. The poor child that was being sent to a mother who wouldn't love him. Maybe I should adopt him out? How could I possibly love any other child as much as my first?

    And then he was born, and my heart grew.

    Of course, that does not apply to things. I do think that too many things make us ungrateful for what we already have. It sounds like you made a wise choice in sending the doll back.

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  3. Loved this! However, it makes me miss the red shoes I've been trying to replace for years! I should of bought two pair of those!

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  4. claudia, definitely not a comment on real babies. i'd take a dozen more of those. and find too– like stephanie2– that my love always multiplies for REAL people. but not necessarily things. and the doll, in the end, is just a thing.

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  5. I have this problem with books. I have shelves full of them and the wall next to my bed is lined with books that I want to plan to enjoy someday… then another book catches my eye, and the ones by my bed fall further down the list. I would probably do best to empty my bedroom of all but one book, focus, finish that one, and then carefully make the next selection. Yes, I think I will do that.

    Yes, "two much" can really be too much. It reminds me of a story I first read in an early issue of O Magazine and then heard related in a General Conference: A woman's nephew loved a toy car from a gas station, so she went to great lengths to collect ALL the cars in the collection for him. Soon he wasn't playing with any of them. When asked why, his response? "I can't love that many cars."

    Very insightful post–it rings true throughout my entire being. Thanks!

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  6. Ah, Brooke! This so touches on so many of my most recent thoughts. This is the one thing I hate about Christmas. And part of the reason we don't do Santa. I just hate being 'required' to obtain more. And I do love gifts, you know. LOVE them. But we limit our children's gifting very dramatically. It helps having two boys who could care less about stuff. It keeps it all in perspective. We ended up giving our kids pj's and a computer to share. They were full of gratitude. When they have too much, they aren't even able to process gratitude in their little brains.

    My friend got a request from her brother's bishop to 'adopt' a family in their ward. The list of things they they wanted was obscene. Truly. All the Twilight movies, x-box games, ps games, laptop accessories, etc. etc. It went on and on. My friend was sick and didn't want to give anything to this family. Like me, none of her own children were going to get any of those items. It was nauseating. Still looking for a Christmas service project, I sent her a request from my brother's ward for money to help pay the medical costs of two young boys. They didn't ask for any gifts. Just money to keep them alive.

    That's someone who GETS it. People are more important than things.

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  7. And a little child shall led them. She's leading the way in showing you what is important to her and that two is just too much for her.

    Which is why the theme I have chosen for 2011 is "simplify." I'm staring by cleaning very closet in the house an getting rid of the excess. I've done two already and it has been very cleansing not only for the house but for my soul.

    I'm with Rebecca about books that is going to be one thing that is going to be hard to shrink down. I will be strong, steadfast and immovable when it comes to my book collection! I'm just not sure which way. More or less?

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  8. Brooke, I love this. Love the cardboard crib, your little one's frank reply, your wise (refuse to take it personally) handling of the situation. This golden line: "my daughter was content with what she already had, not empty by what she lacked" – is one I'll think on for a bit.

    Although, slightly tangential but spurred by your post, I am remembering a recent conversation with my oldest daughter, age five. One day she told me "Mom, I'm only going to have one baby." (She has two sets of twins for younger siblings – two sisters, two brothers). "Why's that?" I asked. "Because it's way too hard to take care of more than one." I laughed. Too much of a good thing was surely the case here.

    Thanks for this well-written and thoughtful piece.

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  9. Thoughtful post.

    Fewer books? I've found it easier to do this if I send them on missions.

    If they are worth something I sell them on half.com or amazon and donate the proceeds to my favorite charity. If they are worth little I list them on paperbackswap and ship them to people who ask for them.

    The few that languish for months unwanted go to a local charity thrift shop or the library book sale in hopes that someone who likes them will find them there and add to the coffers of the charity or library.

    It helps me make the process more purposeful.

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  10. great post, brooke! we were recently visiting friends in tahoe. they are expecting their third child and live in a 2,500 sq.ft. house…complaining that the house was too small for a family with three children. how would they all fit? i commented that my parents raised six children in a 1,100 sq.ft. house. no complaints from my parents. they were happy to have a home for their family. i often wonder what has happened to this generation of ours.

    p.s. sounds like you've been watching toy story lately, which does my heart good.

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  11. Your daughter needs to talk to my middle son. We're in the process of downsizing and moving and he believes more is nearly always better. His heart is breaking.

    But then, my heart broke too when we got rid of 1,000 books this year. And the piano.

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  12. Brooke, thanks for the beautifully written, thoughtful post. I celebrate your daughter's wise perspective and a relationship with you where she could say it straight out.

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