The Battle Over Toys – What the Hell?

Toys. They’re everywhere. I can’t find one room that doesn’t have a toy in it at this very moment. Not even the bathrooms, and there are three of them. We can’t help it that our boys are so adorable that everyone who knows them buys them things. (Yes, Sheldon, that was sarcasm.) At least, that’s what the guilty parties say when they show up with the toy bags in hand. I’ve even heard, “But they’re just so CUTE.” We can’t help it that they have a grandmother and grandfather and great-grandmother and extended family members who can’t resist spoiling them; in fact, they proudly announce, “That’s our job.”

If you noticed that my husband and I haven’t been mentioned in the list of guilty parties, that was not an oversight. We don’t even give the boys a chance to ask for toys at the store. And, on the rare occasion that they do, we are quite capable of saying, “No.” Funny how that tiny little word can be so darn difficult for some people to say. But, before you get the wrong idea, we are not turning into Herr Meisterburger Burgermeister. (No idea what that means? You need to brush up on your Claymation Christmas movies, my friend.)

My husband and I believe the boys need to earn toys or spend their birthday/holiday money on them, rather than get them simply because they batted their impossibly long eyelashes at us. We also teach them how to walk through the toy aisle and LOOK, not BUY. You’d think that’s a foreign concept to some of our ever-so-loving older relatives. Believe it or not, you are, in fact, allowed to leave a store without buying a toy. There are no toy police at the exits who force you to go back in and buy toys before they let you walk out the door.

But, I’ve given up on fighting the forces that are beyond my control. I’ve let it go. *Cue Disney song… NOW!* I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I can parent only my children; I cannot parent my elders. I have tried making suggestions and making those tough phone calls and having those tough conversations with them. It’s a delicate balance because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; but, on the other hand, it would be great if our parenting style were supported and reinforced by everyone who comes into contact with our boys.

Just typing that last sentence, though, felt foolish. These types of things don’t happen in real life, and I come from a very long line of stubborn people. If they want to spoil our children, they are going to do it, come hell or high water.

And, let’s not forget the simple facts. My parents were not sure that they were ever going to get the chance to be grandparents. My grandmother was not sure that she was ever going to know the joy of holding a baby with her blood running through its veins again. For the first year of his life, our older son commonly was referred to as “The Blessing” and “The Miracle.” I never called him that because I thought it was a pretty hefty burden to place on a young child; once his tantrums and potty-training nightmare occurred, those nicknames quickly fell by the wayside, anyway. So, these people waited years for us to have children, and they celebrate their childhood with toys.

There are worse things in the world that grandparents and great-grandparents and other relatives can do than spoil children. Because of my husband’s and my parenting style, our boys are not yet spoiled rotten. We will continue to do everything in our power to prevent that from happening, and we know that truly is not the intention of anyone. They love our boys so much, and we are so grateful for that. Truly. And, not a day goes by that I don’t think about how blessed our boys are to have all of these people in their lives.

In the meantime, we will continue to make suggestions about timing for toys and the conversations to have with the boys prior to handing them their new toys. And, we will continue to add toy tubs to our growing collection. But, at the end of the day, I’ve learned another important lesson in parenting: not everyone is out to sabotage you, even if it feels that way because you just stepped on the third toy of the day. What the Hell?

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Cleaning Day – What the Hell?

I’ll admit that I don’t do heavy-duty housecleaning as often as I should, but we do the weekly routine of light dusting and vacuuming and steam-mopping pretty well. I keep up with the laundry and dishes because there is no alternative, and I clean the kitchen counters and table several times a day. The Department of Health and Children and Youth haven’t been here yet, so things must be acceptable… or at least clean enough.

Today was one of those days that I set aside for heavy-duty cleaning. I have been dreading it for weeks. I know that I’m going to be stuck inside cleaning while everyone else is out having a day date or playing in the backyard or doing anything other than helping me clean; and, I absolutely think that they should be since the boys are so little. It just leaves me with a lot of the work. And a lot of time to complain about the work while I’m doing it, so it’s a good thing little ears are not here to hear me.

I had planned on cleaning our whole first floor – kitchen, playroom, den, walkways, dining area, and laundry room – today. I started by putting away the 900 million Thomas the Tank Engine parts and all of his friends’ parts and asking the boys to put back any toys they got out during the day, and five minutes later the toys I had just cleaned up were everywhere. On the floor. On the couch. On the end tables. Ugh! By lunch, there were more toys out than I thought we owned. I only had sat down to eat breakfast, and I had been picking up and organizing for four hours, but there was the tornado of toys yet again. What the Hell!

Part of my heavy-duty cleaning days consists of sorting toys into “Keep” and “Yard Sale” piles. All of the toys that I recognize from some form of a kid’s meal immediately get tossed into the trash, if I haven’t seen someone playing with them within the past day. It’s important to note that I never broadcast my heavy-duty cleaning days ahead of time to our five year old because I know that he has caught on to my toy-trashing plan and will sit and play with all of the toys that still faintly smell like nuggets or fries because he wants me to think that he still likes them and wants to keep them. He doesn’t even know where they are until I find them and sort them, but he wants them, by God!

Similarly, all of the not-from-a-fast-food-joint toys that I know nobody has touched in the past few weeks get put into the Yard Sale pile, and again, the phenomenon of “Keep that. I love that. I play with it all the time” starts up in full force. My favorite memory of this is the following…

Me: I haven’t seen you play with this. What is it?

Five Year Old: I don’t know and I don’t think I have all of the pieces.

Me: Let’s throw it away, then, if it’ missing parts.

Five Year Old: But I want it. We’ll find them. It’s SO fun.

Me: You don’t even know what it is!

Five Year Old: But I know it’s fun. I can tell.

After a day full of finding all of the parts to toys and putting them together and figuring out which ones to keep, putting them in the appropriate toy bins, and gluing those that we are keeping but need a little TLC first, I had two minutes to dust, wash windows, vacuum, move furniture, clean curtains and blinds, and put out the Fourth of July decorations. I got one room totally done today. ONE! What the Hell?

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