Toys. What thoughts and feelings does that word conjure in your mind? Close your eyes and think about it. I’ll give you a second… Did that moment of consideration allow you to conjure up your idealic childhood of fun carefree days playing ’til your little heart’s content, a time of no responsibility, imagination, self-expression? I bet you didn’t think about your parents having to pick up and keep track of your toys and the casualties they suffered tripping over and keeping track of them, nor should you have, but there’s a dark side to toys that haunt parents. Here are the 6 worst offenders in my home.
Public enemy number one: Legos, that abomination of molded plastic disguised as blocks that foster motor skills and sensory awareness. Pshh, more like miniature land mines waiting to ambush your feet when they are at their most vulnerable. And here’s what you have to look forward to- they get smaller and come with more pieces the older your child gets. That means they are easier to lose, harder to find and even harder to see coming.
Next up, markers, washable or otherwise. Whose idea was it to make instruments of terror that permanently or semi-permanently graffiti everything but the paper upon which their use was intended? Don’t get me started on crayons. They are more permanent than markers, assuming your child is old enough to not eat them, and if they are, then they end up broken in pieces and mashed into the carpet. My dog prefers a nice Crayola snack when one can be snuck away, which isn’t hard since the dadgum things end up strewn about to snap between my feet as I’m navigating my way around the Lego land mines.
You know what was a big waste of money that I thought my kid just had to have? One of those big battery operated cars. There’s a reason why you have to be 16 to have a license- babies can’t drive! I spend more time speed walking next to the vehicle so I can jab at the steering wheel to prevent head on collisions with trees, my car, the dog. But that is assuming the battery is charged since the last time I was talked into letting my son drive it. By the time they’re old enough to operate the vehicle it’s like 3 0’clock in front of the local high school where every teenager behind the wheel is equivalent to a drunk driver.
You know what’s another ginormous waste of time? Puzzles. I find letters from my son’s alphabet puzzles in places that defy logic of how they could have arrived there. Oh, and try consoling a child that is seriously upset because Mickey’s face is the only piece missing. I spend more time stressing about losing puzzle pieces than I spend worrying about losing my child in the store- and I came of age during the scariest movie from the eighties for a kid, Adam, so that’s a significant fear.
I’m going to tell you what gets me the most though, the blasted iPad. I bought that thing for me. Guess who never gets to use it? Me. If I dare to use it, my son comes running and tells me it’s his iPad and he has to watch Ninja Turtles. I remind him that it is not his, it’s mommy’s and I let him use it- as I often remind him anytime he declares something is his, even if that is his superman under wear that he snatches as I’m folding. With the iPad though, it’s an expensive electronic device that is pretty much just there for a 2 year old to do with as he will. Here’s a tip, and I learned this the hard way: periodically check that your child has not turned off the wifi on the iPad while randomly perusing through apps. If you do not have an unlimited data plan, this could be disasterous. Thankfully I got an alert that I had used 60% of my data plan. I most certainly did not! It eventually occurred to me to check that the wifi was turned on.
Now for the item I hate, loathe, despise and abominate. If you don’t have kids yet, heed this warning and if it’s too late and this item is already in your home, take drastic measure now and eradicate it from your inventory. The dreaded item on the most unwanted list is: Play-Doh. Look, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. First time out of those well marketed containers and it’s an education of color combinations. Before, I only knew that yellow and blue make green from the Ziploc commercials. Now I know that pretty much every other color combination makes poop colored globs of goo that have a shelf life of however long it takes your child to destroy your home with the stuff. The commercials lead you to believe this stuff is reusable and you just pop the colors back in their respective container for minutes of more fun next time. If you are going to purchase Play-Doh, just know that it is a single use, disposable item. And, like a dog or kitten, do not buy another person’s child Play-Doh without expressed permission. Otherwise the Play-Doh, the puppy and the kid are all going home with you.
Some toys are inexpensive but don’t let their monetary value determine their degree of mass destruction. The shock and awe of a toy battlefield, which is what your entire house becomes, makes you wonder just how necessary any of these items are. On really bad days you might wonder how necessary your child his, but that is fleeting, so do not make any rash decisions and drop them off at goodwill too. You have to be a sniper, picking off the toys one by one if you want to clear a path through your house. If you are caught putting anything away the child has a conniption, as if you are dumping Buzz and Woody down the furnace to melt away if you dare to put anything back in it’s “place”. I use quotes around place because though a “place” is typically an area where a person or object spends most of its time, or a space where it belongs, toys spend the majority of their time anywhere but where they are least offensive. It’s like they transcend space and time and belong to the universe, not the toy box or shelf to which you have assigned them. Natural laws of entropy, the assertion that disorder is more probable than order, is stronger than your need to not lose your mind in the cluttered vortex of parenthood. And after all of this destruction, in the course of one evening, when you’ve finally got all the toys put away and a semi-navigable passage way through your home, you discover your child’s favorite thing with which to play is the box in which the toy came.