In Excess

I can’t imagine my life without children. That said, there are certain things about having them I could easily live without. At the top of the list: toys. The ones I trip over constantly, that get played with for five—make that two—minutes before being discarded like last week's Times. Toys that make repetitive, annoying noises. Toys that do nothing to enhance the visual appeal of a room. That’s mean, right? Where do I get off being so superficial, selecting their diversions based on looks or their sound? Isn’t it more important that the children are happy, stimulated and fulfilled, regardless of the packaging the aforementioned entertainment comes in? I don’t think so.

The worst part about it is that my children barely even notice when plush animals and plastic playthings disappear because they’re bored with the toys they have anyway. Within what seems like a matter of days, they outgrow and abandon them faster than the small town girl who gets dumped by her high school sweetheart after putting his butt through med school.

Provided they even want to play with toys at all. My oldest would much rather play games on the computer, my younger daughter would much rather get her cute, chubby fingers on some crayons and proceed to add her personal touch to anything within arm’s length (except paper). And my son just wants to eat. So when I finally realized that collectively, my kids’ M.O. involved dumping their toys out of the various baskets that pepper their playroom and our home before abandoning them, something clicked. Loud. I could very well maximize my time and productivity—rather greatly, I might add—by eliminating at least half of the random things that piss me off.

I began with the Happy Meal toys because these weren’t even supposed to be here in the first place. My kids practically live on Yo Baby yogurt and Annie’s Mac and Cheese, not Chicken McNuggets and fries. But on certain occasions, I backslide. I’m not proud of it; it’s just the truth. It’s way too easy to give into the Golden Arches when daddy’s working late, my back is killing me and just the idea of slaving over a hot stove would be the final, rusty nail in my coffin. That said, I hate Happy Meals and the associated accoutrements. I resent the fact that they linger around the house, in all of their tacky, plastic glory, evoking my guilty feelings for even going there. So into the trash they go.

Next up, the noisemakers. I swear the people who design them hate their parents, but is that really our fault? Rowdy toys are not my friends. I don’t really care if their intention is to “teach” something. They make computers for that. And that Fisher Price tea set, the one whose little teapot makes muzak every time you touch it can go, too. Along with the toys that player-hate me for having an adult life. The ones that, without any prompting at all, decide to pipe in with their two cents after hours, once the kids are asleep and I’ve wound down with a glass of merlot and my husband’s putting on the Barry White. Noisy toys are just evil.

Maybe if the majority of the toys we had actually got any play, I’d feel differently. But it took me three kids and (at least) thirty trips to the Salvation Army to realize that when it comes to toys, most kids are cads. To this day, my five-year-old only consistently only “plays” with one thing, and that’s Zozo, a stuffed bunny she named at age two that my dad’s friend picked up for her at Harrod’s when she was born. Sure, Zozo’s fur is matted, his (her?) green, grosgrain ribbon is missing from around the neck and it smells a little funny. But that bunny s a survivor. Zozo’s seen many a plaything disappear from this house. He (she?) has also seen many toys get used and abused, loved and left in this house. Zozo’s also seen mommy send many a stuffed animal down the river to Goodwill—faster than an antebellum slave master. Zozo ain’t going nowhere. The rest of them better watch their backs.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.