So, what are we learning, over a week into Lent?
Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
I must first say, we were on a short holiday last weekend (we figured this was only fair as the girls will be getting a new sibling rather than a summer holiday) so we have only just got into the swing of things. And Imogen (nearly 4) broke her collarbone on our return so subsequently got at least 48 hours of eating whatever she fancied. But I think the girls have felt the impact of living & eating simply - which to us as a family, means only fruit and yogurt for dessert (no ice cream or chunks of chocolate from Daddy), no cookies, no treats, no candy.
Except for Sundays.
Now, I realise that to understand the concept of denial you have to appreciate what you do have. And so on Sunday, we had a second breakfast of pastries, then later in the day, chocolate, cheesecake, chocolate cornflake crispies and so on. Which was a bit much. But they had been looking forward to their 'free pass' day all week - when I lamented that I fancied cheesecake during the week, my 5 year old put her foot down - "But Mummy, it's Lent! We're not having any treats in the week!" And after a cooked Sunday lunch, we did have a simple supper of butternut squash soup and bread, over which I literally wept that despite the day of sugary snacks, they appreciated simple home cooked fayre and even vocalised their enjoyment of it. ("This is delicious, Mum. Well, it's a bit delicious - it's not very delicious, but it's quite delicious.")
But I think what is hitting home most is the Christian Aid materials for kids. Even though it took a little fiddling with the formatting prior to printing, the simple messages are hitting home. Our 5 year old isn't the biggest fan of potatoes (no, not even McDonalds fries) and was amazed to learn about the boy whose family mainly ate potatoes for their meals as that was all they had. Similarly, that children don't get to play but instead have to work hard to earn money, is something we just don't talk about every day. Suddenly, unstacking the dishwasher and keep the house tidy is almost fun.
I haven't really got any profound words about the role of God in all this. We have been talking about all that Jesus gave up, and my older daughter at least sees the connection (based on previous years' experience of too much too moon, we haven't started reading the Easter picture books yet.) But I think on some level, an appreciation of how blessed our family is with the ability to work at something we enjoy, have more than enough money for our needs and enjoy things which others may never experience, is sinking in. We've recently bought a vehicle to accommodate our expanding brood. My youngest daughter actually asked today where we got the money to buy it. Which, given that if she had her way Daddy would play games with her constantly instead of working, gave rise to quite a timely chat....