After a day spent sorting, tossing, and swearing, I’m sitting down to rest and write this post. This is now at the top of the list of “Things I Wish Someone had Told Me” before I had kids: the toys will be a problem.
I’m not a materialistic, consumeristic kind of person. My kids, on the other hand, are all of that plus some hoarding tendencies.
The materialistic struggle
No one told me when we had our firstborn that the toys would take over our house. Maybe they assumed that we would just figure it out like everyone else. It never made it on those lists and articles people write with titles like “10 Things Every New Parent Should Know,” or “Parenting Tips 101.” No, I never knew that the toys would be an ongoing battle.
It’s not like we spend a ton of money on toys. My oldest was wailing the other day after I pointed out our $50 limit compared to all these pricy $200+ things on his Christmas list. “But mom, I’ll never get what I want!” No son, you won’t. And I’m fine with that because you would play with it for a week and then forget about it. Or break it.
We don’t even have relatives that go crazy buying gifts for our kids (thank you guys!) Holidays and birthdays are pretty restrained and simple – but it still adds up!
The thing that kills me is the kids don’t even play with most of it. The things they wanted the most for Christmas last year are completely ignored and left to gather dust. The flashy, battery-eating toys that light up and make noise? Discarded in no time at all.
It’s a cycle – the newest, brightest, shiniest toys are the BEST TOY EVER! right up until they get the next one. A cycle of greed, selfishness, and waste. I hate it. I hate those little toys that come in kids’ meals. I hate going to the Dollar Store and dragging them through the aisles to get what we came for while the toys dazzle their eyes. It’s dreck – cheap plastic dreck that ends up in the landfill almost immediately.
Every so often I cull the toys. I give away what I can and trash the broken things. I sort out what the kids actually play with (a very small pile, actually) and set aside the school toys. They still pile up. They still spawn in the bins, making more messes than I can keep up with.
I hate it. I hate the mess, the waste. But I remember … once … a very long time ago ….
The fish game
I wanted a fish game so much: the kind where the fish open their mouths over and over while you try to poke a string in to “catch” them. It was all I wanted – I asked for it, put it on my Christmas list, and eyed them wistfully any time we saw them in the store. It was amazing – to my childish eyes, it was a wonderful toy.
To my adult eyes, they look like cheap trash not worth the money to buy it. I’m guessing that’s what my parents thought too, because I never got it. It devastated my little kid heart, and I probably cried over it a few times after Christmas and birthday rolled past with no fish in sight. I learned a hard lesson that year: that what I wanted didn’t matter.
So even though I hate the toy mess in our house, I live with it. I sort it as best I can and hide it in bins and boxes so it’s not visually overwhelming. I don’t want my kids growing up with that bittersweet ache of missing out. I remember that something cheap, plastic, and shiny can look like treasure to a little kid’s eyes. I remember that devastation and I don’t want my kids to learn that hard lesson.
I finally got a fish game – I bought it for my kids. They loved it too, and they played with it for a while. Right up until they broke it.