One of the things I didn’t understand about parenting until I became a parent was the relentless proliferation and seemingly endless tenure of the toys your family accumulates. This is particularly true when you have children four years apart. This is because it often takes two years or more to finally become motivated enough to banish a toy. Naturally that lifespan wouldn’t apply to toys that die in the line of duty, though an alarming percentage of the toys in any parent’s house are broken. (And sixty-five percent of those are technically parts of broken toys.)
There is great variety in the toy populace. Hot Wheel cars. Game pieces. Puzzles and parts therof. “Action figures”, generically speaking. Fake money. Always with the fake money. Truly, the real curse of Fast Food Nation for parents is the toy in the bag. It’s a little-known fact that the dad in the pool scene in The Graduate actually says, “Plastic bullshit toys” to Dustin Hoffman. He just says the “bullshit toys” part real quiet under his breath. He saw my future.
Most toys spend their lives just getting moved from place to place, mostly a place called Out of the Way. Life milestones include coming home, sitting on counter, being thrown in bucket, then another, then another, then drawer, floor, original bucket, and so forth. This can go on indefinitely, so far as I know, and it is in no way connected to how much your children play with the toy, or how much it cost, or anything at all except perhaps for size. That’s why parents of young children, say, 2 and under don’t much understand this issue. When children are young, they tend to get bigger toys due to the choking thing. But once they stop putting things in their mouths, they get access to smaller and smaller toys.
Small toys have to be put in some kind of container. A bin, toybox or toilet, sometimes. Big buckets hold a lot of small toys, and then one day children behave badly and it looks like you have a Toy Superfund site in your basement. Inevitably your clean up efforts will halt as you consider a toy you’ve picked up. And you realize you don’t ever want to pick that toy up again, as long as you live.
Who’s gonna know? I mean honestly. I’m not talking about your varsity toys here. These toys have no future relationship with our children or any other, and often no past one, either. Sometimes toys just need to disappear. Nobody needs to know. And it always works.
That is to say, never have I disappeared a toy that was later remembered by our children. That tells me I’m doing a good job of culling the herd, and really I’m giving them the gift of more time with toys that are more age appropriate for them and create less mess overall. So in that sense I have a perfect record.
Unfortunately, there have been occasions where I didn’t properly dispose of a toy, whose subsequent discovery in the garbage has prompted some rather prickly questioning from both Linus and Lily. What can I say, it’s always an awkward moment when a kid learns you’ve dismissed their toys. Why?! Why is that bubble maker shaped like the Turtle Wax turtle that won’t hold fluid and I haven’t played with in a year in the garbage? WHY?
If you want to minimize their chances of suddenly remembering all the great times they were planning to have with that three pounds of amalgamated Happy Meal plastic, you have to be creative about where you stash the evidence. So far so good for me, mostly. If I had a crawlspace and a clown suit, I could be the John Wayne Gacy of toys.
But I’m not alone. I know a lot of Pipeline People have their own long list of toys they have disappeared. Being a parent is about knowing when to throw away toys.
Now I’m thinking back to some of the toys of my youth; frankly I thought I would remember more than I do. They all seem to blend together; I don’t remember having one set of toys, which was then exchanged for another. Everything overlaps. Most stuff, who cares. But some of it may be inextricably linked to periods in your life. How could something that you liked so much just disappear without you noticing? Now that I think about it…where did my Weebles boat go? The Hot Wheels oval? Where’s Ducky!?
I guess it was time for them to go. But maybe it’s better this way, with the memory of the toy and the good times it sporadically provided, rather than the toy itself. And now, my old toys and Jane’s old toys are mingling with Linus and Lily’s old toys, and maybe some of yours, too, in that place where all toys go when they leave us.