Over the weekend I went on a caffeine induced rampage through the kids playroom. Maybe that third cup of Joe was too much, but the place was a cacophony of junk! Puzzle pieces everywhere, shredded papers pulled out of good books, uncapped magic markers, smashed hand-painted toys, Sharpie pen scribbled on the chalk board, and endless amounts of plastic chotchkies. I could not believe what chaos had transpired within the past year. My working mom status leaves me little time to keep track of those big toy bins. I'm not quite sure how my husband became exempt.
I went into the playroom with the kids and a box of garbage bags. I told the kids I was upset with the total lack of respect for their things. While reflecting on that thought, I instructed them to throw away broken or unwanted toys. I’d figure out punishment later. My only rule was to keep anything made out of wood. I spared my 3 year old from the process simply because he doesn’t understand. But my soon to be 7 and 9 year old certainly do. What was amazing is how easily they threw everything away! Favorite teddy bears, a perfectly good bingo game, they would have tossed the Lego's if I didn’t set them aside for their little brother. Mister Potato head was toast. I just can’t get over their total disrespect for their toys. I tried to explain to my girls that those matryoshka dolls that grandma brought back from Russia were hand painted by a woman who spent weeks on them. There were 2 sets of 12. One for each grand-daughter. What was left of them is shameful. They looked at me like little puppies, heads tilted, when I explained how every single stroke was painted by hand. With very little enthusiasm, my 9 year old tried to salvage what was left and stacked them pathetically one into the other. We ended up throwing away 8 garbage bags full of broken mismatched unwanted toys. I hate to do the “when I was a kid” lecture, but there was no way around it. When I was a kid, I remember getting a big plastic sleeve of magic markers. I kept those markers capped and in their original arrangement of color scheme for years till I used them up. My favorite collectables were Hello Kitty items, which I was afraid to use for fear of “using them up.” I had the same Monopoly game, with all of its pieces for 15 plus years. I also watched a black and white TV, of which we only had one. Which brings me to another point. I don’t feel like we are a household of excess. We don’t allow televisions or computers in the kid’s bedrooms, we don’t even have one in our bedroom. Our kids don’t have video games as I prefer to send them outside. They have bikes and rollerblades and skateboards which get lots of use on the driveway. But “in house” toys? NO RESPECT. So we’ve started a new rule. From now on, for Birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions relatives will donate to a fund for each girl. I realize this won't be possible for birthday's with friends. When the fund reaches a certain amount then can spend it on one item that is special to them. My 9 year old is already saving for a laptop. I'm not sure she realizes this is a $2 thousand dollar item. My 6 year old's only worry was that Santa wouldn’t know what to do. I assured her I would call him and make the same arrangement with Santa. We’ll still put up a stockings for little stuff.
Ursula vonRydingsvard is a mother of 3. She runs a business at Youhere.com.