While we’re on the subject of toys, it’s that time of year again. Not just the holidays, but the dreaded pre-holiday toy clean-out.
Many parents take this annual opportunity to help their kids clear out toys they haven’t played with and no longer want — to make way for the new (and we hope, fewer) toys that will arrive with the holidays. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the solstice, there’s probably gift-giving involved. And if you have children, the good and bad news is that toy-gifting may be involved.
Good news because distractions in the form of new toys give parents a break over the holidays, when there’s no school and it’s cold outside. This is bad news because, well—more toys.
We’ve tried to teach our kids that you’ve got to get rid of the old to make room for the new. And despite the wrenching emotional process, less clutter is better.
Toy clean-out with my girl is relatively easy. She’s already given away or gotten rid of lots of her old toys. Of course, she’s 10 now, and other than Legos, she doesn’t really play with toys that aren’t hooked up to a screen. She’s also the oldest of all her cousins and doesn’t mind passing toys on to her younger sibling and various cousins. She even enjoys putting together a bag of her lightly used stuff for the Salvation Army this time of year. We’ve sufficiently guilted her into feeling overly fortunate. But that’s what parents are for, right? Love, support, food and guilt are just a portion of what we give our children.
With the boy, it’s a different story.
He adores his toys and his books and his stuffed animals. And he plays with them all. Unlike the girl, who has never been in her room except to sleep, he’ll play for hours in his room. He’ll turn it into a minefield of tiny plastic pieces surrounded by tableaus of stuffed animal fantasy sequences, often involving the garroting or other physical punishment of said beasties.
I’ve got baskets set up on his bookshelf and in his closet, such that cleaning up his room consists of shoveling whatever’s on the floor into the containers. We gave up on keeping the toys separated and organized years ago. This is one reason the pre-holiday toy cleanup can be daunting.
The other is that he’s loath to part with anything. The freebie toy from Burger Hell means as much to him as the 2,000-piece Playmobil zoo. Any and all toys could be an important part of a future tableau or fantasy game.
And he notices when toys suddenly go missing.
“Mom, where’s my little penguin that beats up the Tyrannosaurus rex?” he recently asked.
“Ummmmm. I think it went on a trip to Goodwill,” I mumble.
“What???? You gave away my penguin. He was special!”
Much wailing and gnashing of teeth follows until I convince him that the plastic turtle I didn’t give away may have sufficient powers to overcome the T-rex as well.
Even knowing drama would ensue, I dragged him to his room last week, committing us both to a prolonged and painful session of cleaning out toys.
I managed to dump some broken pieces in the trash and start a shoebox of cheap plastic toys that he thought he might be able to live without. As always, I wonder how he’s accumulated this stuff. We rarely visit fast-food restaurants, and we hardly ever purchase toys. Where did it all come from?
After about an hour, the boy and I had gone through about half his baskets. The give-away shoebox was almost full. Success!
We decided to take a break, then look through his books. That was even harder. The boy’s still attached to his basketful of baby board books. He says they remind him of being a baby. As if that was a better time or something.
Ultimately, he agreed to part with one tome: My First Winnie-the-Pooh. But only if he could give it to his newest baby cousin.
I agreed to mail it to her, but then the book fell open, and I re-read the first poem, which begins:
“So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
“There’s always Pooh and Me.”
Then I got all teary and held the book to my chest and realized that there are some things I’m not ready to part with.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.