Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Toys Try to Take Over . . .

Several of my closest friends had children before I did, and let me tell you, I benefited from their wisdom. My poor best friend had to endure endless calls through nine months of pregnancy (in her great wisdom, fairly early on, she told me, “Listen. Your body is going to do weird and crazy things. Just assume that they’re all normal unless there’s a LOT of blood or a LOT of pain.”) It was good advice, but I still called her. The calls continued through the newborn days, and I was never more grateful to have girls in my circle who had blazed the trail.

Along with advice, they gave me hand-me-downs. Boxes and bags of maternity clothes, sleepers, bibs, burp cloths, baby socks, and some of the sweetest, softest outfits you have ever seen. Then some toys came in—fuzzy rattles, plush snuggle toys, colorful singing characters that hung on the arm of the car seat.

Well, the toys kept coming. And coming. AND COMING. By the time baby #2 arrived, our upstairs family room looked like a Toys R Us outlet store. We had one of everything, and although we appreciated the gifts (seriously—I think my husband and I have bought five toys to this day), the toys were taking over.

And let’s all say it together: “They didn’t play with any of them.”

I walked into our family room one afternoon and saw toys scattered all over the floor. My son was sitting on the floor in a corner looking sleepy and zoned-out and not really playing with anything. I told him, “It’s time to pick up all of these toys.” He automatically replied, “But I’m still playing with them.” I said, “You’re playing with ALL of these toys?” He blinked and looked around and then said, “Oh, no, we would need more kids for that.”

Yeah. It was time for a toy cleanse.

It took me months to match up parts, shine away the dust, and figure out the best places to donate the best of the stuff. We’re down to bare basics now, and all four of us are better off (plus our dog was able to cut down her dose of anti-anxiety medicine). But both kids have a fondness for a couple of characters, and I want them to enjoy their animated buddies. I mean, Big Bird and Strawberry Shortcake and I had our fun times together back in the day, so I get it. I’m picky about what my kids watch on TV; in fact, there’s one wildly popular show that I flat-out refuse to let my little girl watch (I don’t care how cute it looks—I’m not budging). But she likes “Doc McStuffins” . . . and after a hard day of kindergarten, who doesn’t need to kick back for thirty minutes with a sitcom and a cup of half-strength grape juice? So here are some creative ways that I’ve let Doc into the house--without allowing her to take OVER my house:

Last summer, Grammy gave her a little gray Doc McStuffins t-shirt. Instead of letting her wear it to school, it became her Friday night shirt. As a reward for giving it her all with writing her name and counting by fives, each Friday night, my little one takes an extra bubbly shower and puts on her Doc t-shirt with a pair of soft pink or purple shorts. It’s our Friday night ritual, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything . . . of course, I noticed that the shirt is creeping up her middle, so I went ahead and bought a new one that she’ll get for Christmas. I bought it two sizes too big.

For that same birthday, she also scored a Doc McStuffins beach towel. Unless I miss my guess, Doc will be joining us for our annual beach trip for years to come. (Shoot, I still have the Mickey Mouse one that I got for my thirteenth birthday.) Bonus: her birthday presents were covered in Doc wrapping paper.

We have another fun tradition also: every fall, my husband and son go on an overnight camping adventure. As soon as we kiss the boys goodbye, we head to Wal-Mart’s party department and buy a pack of Doc paper plates. We feel that cartoon paper plates bring a certain elegance to our Friday night take-out.

We also have a Doc toothbrush, Doc bandages, and a pair of navy blue canvas shoes—plain on the outside, but Doc’s little face is inside the shoe. Her Granddaddy and her uncle have already bought my daughter a Doc lab coat and matching hair band for Christmas . . . I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to play doctor’s office together, but as she sports her coat, she’ll have to use her imagination with the tools she’ll use. I feel certain that our dog will get plenty of check-ups, and I’m looking forward to seeing what regular household items will magically become medical instruments. Other possible Christmas gift ideas include a Doc bath towel or wash cloth, body wash or bubble bath, coloring books, snack plates, and more bandages (‘cause I’m sure you know how long those last). We also love Doc stickers—because then, a plain notebook, a box of tissues, or a snack pack of Goldfish crackers will suddenly involve our girl Doc.

My bottom line method of managing the toy tidal wave: if it’s something that we can use or use up, then Doc is welcome in my house . . . but please . . . no more junky toys.


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