They can be your best friend when you find a magical one that keeps your fussy baby happy.
They can be your worst enemy when they slowly but surely take over your house.
Mothers are all too well acquainted with the "toy war". It starts off slowly, really. At first you don't even notice. I distinctly remember thinking, "gee, we don't have enough toys to fill up the three small built-in shelves in the playroom."
I carefully arranged my daughter's few toys on the shelves and, wallah, my playroom was clean.
I'm not even really sure when I began to lose the toy war. I think it started around my oldest child's first birthday. For one thing, she received this:
This one humongous Elmo was big enough to occupy an entire corner of the playroom. It was bigger than my child.
No worries, though. I still had more than enough clutter free space and we were in good shape.
Over the years, things like this slowly but surely began to occur:
Our toy inventory was steadily growing. It's a little like kudzu. It starts off slow and you hardly even notice its presence. Then one morning you look out and your entire yard is covered in the stuff. That's exactly how it happened here.
And so, in an attempt to control the toy population and re-claim some of my home's square footage, I tried the "put these in the attic and rotate the toys" idea. I had to work in stealth mode here, because the moment my girls figured out I was putting away any of their beloved toys (even the ones they didn't remember they own), it would be an all out war.
I succeeded. I siphoned down their toys to the bare minimum I could without them noticing. I bagged them up and neatly tucked them away in the attic.
Wouldn't you know, the very next day, the girls decided to pull out all their stuffed animals (which I think may be real because they seem to be mating and multiplying like rabbits)
and have a "pet store". The sounds were interesting to listen to from across the house.
First, little sounds of "hmm". The girls were looking for missing stuffed animals. No big worries yet, just midly curious as to their whereabouts.
Next came a little bit of irritation. The good-natured "hmms" turned to "hummmphs" as they began more earnestly to dig through toy bins and look under beds.
Following the "hummphs" came the one I was waiting for:
And then, because I could no longer put it off, I had to confess what I'd done.
"YOU PUT OUR TOYS WHERE? WHY?"
Cries of distress and anguish followed. These are not pleasant sounds.
"BUT THEY'LL BE SCARED IN THERE! IT'S DARK! IT'S COLD! IT'S LONELY! WE HAVE TO RESCUE THEM!"
It's like they have little tiny toy scouts that report back to them when something is missing. There's an informant in this house somewhere. They had not gotten out ALL their stuffed animals in a year.
Fine. We'll get them back out.
I crawled back into the attic where I'd put the beloved toys. I mournfully extricated them and presented them to the girls, who were enraged and entranced at the same time by the mystery of toys in a garbage bag.
It was a free for all. Toys flying everywhere. "oohhs and aaahhs" each time they withdrew a toy. I became a little worried that they suffered from memory loss. These were the exact same toys which had been sitting unused, unloved, un-played with, for months. And now? Now it was as if Santa had unexpectedly dropped by and left brand new toys they'd never even seen!
But just you wait, girls. Don't get too comfortable. I may have lost this battle, but I WILL win the war. They've come to recognize my "clean out and simplify" moods. They go running ahead of me, clutching and snatching at their toys and hiding them anywhere they can.
I feel a little bad sometimes. It's like I'm the Grinch.
But don't try to soften my heart of ice, girls. It just won't work.
(I say this on the very day where just hours before Olivia and I discussed getting new pet shops as her reward for hard work at school....I know, I'm all talk.)