Thursday, May 9, 2013

This is why I went on Strike

I spent some time with the kids toys recently, for the first time since I went on Toy Strike about two years ago. Toy Strike is my refusal to have anything to do with toys. I will not clean them up, organize them, fix them or find them. I had to do this for my own sanity.

Back when I had one one-year old baby, I read that you shouldn't overload your child with too many toys. Choose a small selection and rotate the toys weekly. Toy rotation became my Sunday night chore. I'd watch Law and Order Criminal Intent, and I'd assemble the toys, neatly organized in their clear plastic storage boxes, and bring out the next set. I'd even do cool things like arrange various stuffed animals and small toys in fun little action scenes ready for the child to enjoy.

That was before what I now call the 2nd Christmas Toy Explosion. In case you are a new parent, let me explain. You think you have the toy situation under control. Your baby has a few favorite toys and LOVES them. Your child will be perfectly content with these few cherished items. There is no way, you think, no way, you will ever let your home turn into a Toy-opolis, like some of those other parents who obviously just can't manage to say no.

It's simple, you just inform the grandparents and other friends and relatives that you'd prefer they not give toys as gifts. And they happily comply. They give your baby cute bibs, and funny socks, and board books, and you feel all wonderful and smug and in-control.

Until the 2nd Christmas, when baby is now a todder, suddenly, Grandma and everyone else, toss your rules out the window because they'd rather bribe cute little toddler smiles and hugs and kisses with mounds of Giant Plastic and Stuffed Objects.

Of course the bribes work, so for 2nd Birthday they come bearing more of the same, until suddenly, Sunday night, you realize it's 2 a.m., you're watching an infomercial, and you still haven't finished organizing and rotating the toys.

Fast forward five years, and multiple rounds of toy purging, the dreaded chore of going through the toys and making separate piles like they advise on Hoarders. My piles are like this:

Keep:
A few special dolls and stuffed animals. Quality toys and games that will stand the test of time. Fun toys that the child plays with on a regular basis.

Donate or Sell:
Nice toys from the 0-18 month age range that are gathering dust. Toys that require excessive assembly and/or set up space, and therefore are rarely used, despite how cool they may be. Stuffed animals of forgotten origin.

Discard:
Fast food toys. Toys with missing pieces. Dollar store toys. Broken toys. The Barbie doll with one leg. Battery operated toys that no longer work, despite numerous attempts to replace batteries.

However, the children have very different ideas as to how these piles should be organized:

Keep:
All items that mom agrees should be kept, PLUS: EVERY SINGLE STUFFED ANIMAL, (hugging it tightly) "because I love it sooooo much." (kisses stuffed animal). Every toy that makes an annoying noise. Every toy that comes with more than 10 pieces. Every battery operated toy, because "you can FIX it, it just needs new batteries! PLEASE!" Any fast food toy which is not broken. The LEG from the broken Barbie doll, which has been named "Leggy" and is a recurring comic-relief character in all imaginary play scenarios. The ads for additional products that were included in the box with another toy, and are now serving as treasure maps.

Donate or Sell:
The porcelain doll/piggybank/figurine that grandma gave you when you were born which is inscribed with your full name and birthdate, birth weight and height.

Discard:
The Barbie with one leg. The broken fast food toys. The expensive rocket and space station because one astronaut has lost his helmet. Broken crayon pieces smaller than one centimeter only. Random scraps of paper. Dirty Kleenex.

Needless to say, negotiations get complex and stressful and lead to temper tantrums and tears, and I really don't like my kids to see me that way, so . . . the Toy Strike has been reinstated.