Wednesday, October 24, 2007

#1 Most Surprising Thing About Parenting . . .

And finally, the #1 thing that surprised me MOST about parenting: Toy management!

No one ever told me that toys would take over my life.

Before I had children, I had a room in my house that I liked to call the library. (Afterall, I used to be a librarian and will probably go back to being one at some point). See photo. Very grown-up looking, don’t you think?

After giving birth, this room did double duty as library/office AND as a place to store all the baby gear: pack ‘n play, car seat, baby swing, etc. Then it just sort of morphed into the playroom. And now, most days, it looks like this:

It’s no longer a library, that’s for sure!

When I signed-up to become a parent, I didn’t realize how many hours of my life would be spent on toys: researching the most educational toys, browsing the toy isles, comparison shopping; assembling the toys; putting them away; stepping on them in the middle of the night; putting them away; cleaning them up off the floor; putting them away; begging my children to put them away; punishing them for not putting them away; finally putting them AWAY (like for 6 months) myself out of desperation. (NOTE: once my second child came along, I gave up the toy researching and shopping and switched to Management Mode. Managing all the toys that we were given and rarely buying a toy.)

I have tried many methods of toy management. These include:

*Trying to keep the toys cleaned up. This doesn’t work. Kids play with toys.

*Keeping the toys in the playroom only. I finally gave up and decided not to care about the mess in the playroom. I rationalized that as long as the toys stayed in the playroom, I could ignore them. This didn’t work either. For two reasons. The first reason being that when you have very small children, they want to be wherever you are so if you are in the kitchen, they want to bring all their toys into the kitchen. The second reason this didn’t work is because it would get so messy in the playroom that the kids would leave the playroom in search of another place to play because they said they didn’t have any room in the playroom to play because it was so messy.

*Keeping the toys cleaned up. I know, I know, I already said this. But I tried it again. Except I seemed to be the only one who cared about it. If the room got too messy and I issued Clean Up orders, the kids (my husband is guilty of this too) would just start chucking any toy into any bin and then whine to me later that they couldn’t find their “Little People with the blue hat” so I’d end up spending more time than I should have trying to find their misplaced toys.

*Keeping the toys cleaned up. So I decided that I would label everything, put everything in its place, share this information with my children and spouse and we’d all live happily ever after. Nope. Turns out that bins are really fun for dumping so that you can take 20 of them and build a tower and then there is an ever bigger mess than there was before.

*Rotating toys. I frequently pack up toys and put them in the basement for a few months. The curious thing about this is: my children RARELY miss them! They don’t even notice that the toys have been packed away. When I bring the toys out again in 6 months it’s like getting a new toy.

*Throwing away toys. Some times I get SO fed up that I threaten to throw away their toys if they won’t clean them up. I set the timer, give them warnings and then march into the room with the garbage bag. I am expecting them to hop to it and put away toys! Or at the very LEAST, beg me not to throw the toys away. Nope. Instead, I was met with, “Hey! Let me help!” And they start putting toys in the garbage bag! I would say something like, “Don’t you like to play with that?” And they would say, “Um, no, not really.” Or, “Well, that belongs to the boys so I don’t care if we throw it away.” What choice did I have? I had to follow through with my threat so I threw the toys away.

*Giving away toys. I felt guilty about throwing away so many toys so now I wait until the kids are in bed or out of the house and I make it my mission to get rid of 1/3 of the toys in the playroom. I stick them out in the alley with a FREE sign and hope that they are taken before my kids see them outside. My husband says I am the Meanest Mom In The World for doing this. But I counter with, “How many hours have YOU spent on toy management?” He knows the answer is ZERO so he pretty much leaves me alone but just wants me to know that he doesn’t agree with my philosophy on toys. However, he doesn’t disagree to the point of being willing to help me with the management.

I still have not found a good method for toy management. I think all I can do is just deal with it until the kids are too old for toys. People with grown children assure me that I will miss the toys once they are no longer in the house but I REALLY can’t see that happening. I will miss MANY things about having small children, but toys is not one of them.

P.S. To all who have given us toys that have 86 parts – jus wait until you have kids!

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