I hate toys. All of them – the ones with the noises and the lights, the tasteful wooden ones, the plastic ones, even the well designed open-ended, Swedish ones.
Yet with three kids, our house is full of them. Most of them are never played with. Their rooms are full of legos, tea sets, doll houses, hot wheels, trains, kinetic sand, and more. So much lies untouched for weeks at a time. I hate the clutter, and I hate the sense of having so many things around that we just don’t need.
Like seagulls flying over a slag heap and diving for shiny trash, my kids prefer to play with the things they see lying discarded around the house. Treasures from the recycling bin? Yes please! Tupperware? Absolutely. The remote control? Definitely.
They lust after bubble wrap, paper bags, cardboard boxes, empty ballpoint pens,which they then elaborately spin into the accessories of vast make-believe worlds for me to fall into and trip over.
It’s fun to witness imagination that can make treasure from my trash but isn’t anyone going to play with all those toys? Of course, if I dare to suggest that we give away the neglected toys, everyone loses their minds.
There are a few select toys that they do play with. I know this because these are the ones I pick up in the evening entreating them to help me while the young ones flail on the floor, and the older one rolls her eyes. The favorites:
- Toy keys and phones – The preschoolers text their teachers and the big one stops what she is doing, holds the phone up, gives a huge smile and a far too teenage tilt of the head and takes a selfie.
- Strollers – because you need something to push the Tupperware around in.
- Pretend food – To serve up giggling combinations of pizza, rubber tangerines and wooden fish to me and their Dad as we sit on tiny wooden chairs with our knees bumping our chins and they demand “Forty ten dollars” for every dish that pretend touches our lips.
Kids just seem to attract stuff – party bags, prizes for being good at the dentist, hand me downs from a cousin, grandmas who can’t help themselves, Christmas and birthdays that just keep coming year after year.
I also have had moments of, madness in the bargain corner of TJ Maxx when a sudden insanity descends and I really think buying three ‘sing a long to the hits of Frozen microphones’ is a good idea. I came to my senses in the parking lot. They’re still hidden in the closet. I haven’t found anyone I hate enough yet to give them to their kids.
At the end of second grade, my elder daughter’s teacher gave each kid three stuffed animals because he was cleaning out his own kid’s collection. He sent a note home, “You’re welcome or I’m sorry!” The insouciance of the exclamation point tipped me into an incandescent rage. Stuffed animals are the worst of the useless toys.
So what’s the answer?
We have limited our own purchase of Christmas and birthday presents to just a few per child and tried, mostly ineffectually, to put the smackdown on the grandparents. We have encouraged experiences to friends and relatives. How about you buy a pass to the aquarium, pay for a horse back riding lesson, make my car payment…umm I mean help pay for summer camp?
Some nights, I pack up bags of toys and convince my husband that I am following the plan of rotating toys out of the collection to return them six months later so the kids will feel joyful and reengaged at the reunion. Little do they all know that after six months, I’m going to rotate those bags right out of our lives.
And what about the devil’s push a long popper, toy that hasn’t been seen for several years? They ask after it sometimes and I defer, “Oh uhh I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. It’s probably around somewhere.” All the while remembering sneaking out in the middle of the night to shove it in the recycling bin, hoping its tell tale blue handle wouldn’t emerge by morning and out my treachery.
I’m just sick of all the stuff.
I don’t want to kill all the joy of childhood as some more toy loving grandmas have suggested. I remember how it was on Christmas and birthday mornings to feel that sense of abundance and surprise, but I’m just sick of all the stuff.
I know that It’s hard for a three-year-old to turn down a flashing, plastic ring and it’s probably not fair to deprive a relative the joy of choosing a present for my kids. I just don’t want them to wallow so far in excess that they cannot appreciate what they have.
So we do what can to manage the amounts, we talk a lot about sharing what we have with others, and if anyone approaches our house with a stuffed animal, I am going to pelt them with ‘sing a long to Frozen’ microphones.