Archive | Toys RSS feed for this section

Letting Go Of The Old

2 Aug

Yesterday afternoon, I found my living room floor. It had been missing for several years, buried beneath layers of toys that the kids have, over the years, played with and outgrown.

On several occasions, I have made efforts to organize the toys, painstakingly separating them into categories and storing like with like. But these toy organization systems that I have spent hours creating have lasted, on average, for about an hour. My older son sometimes copes with his autism meltdowns by picking up boxes of toys and dumping out the contents. Even as I wistfully watch my hours of work come to naught, I recognize that I would rather see my son throw toys around than bang his head against the wall hard enough to put holes in the drywall.

Quite apart from the side effects of autism, kids under the age of six don’t really get that the cars should go with the other cars, or that the Legos should be in the same container, or that the gazillion Mr. Potato Head parts are meant to stay together.

This weekend, me and my husband – ably assisted by our five-year-old son, took another crack at organizing the toys. But there was a difference in the way we did it this time.

A big difference.

This time, we actually got rid of stuff.

I thought getting rid of toys would be a nightmare, but once we had the buy-in of our younger son, it was actually quite easy. It was never going to be a problem where our firstborn was concerned. As long as he has his Lego, his gazillion Mr. Potato Heads, his measuring tapes, his alphabetic fridge magnets, and his math workbooks, he’s happy.

After a day of sorting, storing, and being bossed around by our five-year-old, we had reduced the volume of toys by a staggering amount. All of a sudden, we had enough toy boxes to contain all of the toys that we kept, without them spilling over onto the carpet. We rediscovered the concept of walking from one end of the living room to the other without getting Lego-shaped dents in the soles of our feet. It was an incredibly liberating experience.

There’s just one thing…

These are the toys that my kids played with when they were babies. The little teddy bears. The Winnie the Pooh ride-on toy. The blocks, the nesting cups, the First Words books. Getting rid of these remnants of my kids’ babyhood was like saying goodbye to a phase of my life, and acknowledging that my babies are no longer babies, that they are little boys.

As sentimental as I felt about the toys, what really made my breath catch in my throat was sorting through the little shoes that my kids wore as babies. It was the shoes that served as a physical reminder of how tiny they once were. As I held the shoes in my hands, the memories washed over me.

My older son’s very first pair of baby slippers, given to him by my Dad when he was just a few days old (no way am I getting rid of those).

Feeling my boy’s fingers grasp my hand with absolute trust as he tentatively walked in shoes for the first time.

My younger son’s face, alive with excitement, as he wore the shoes that were a miniature version of the ones his Dad wore.

My two boys laughing together as they splashed in rain puddles, wearing their new galoshes.

Their joyful oblivion as they tramped snow into the house in winter, leaving tiny wet footprints all over the floor.

The memories fade out and I reluctantly come back to reality, sitting there on the floor holding these tiny shoes in my hands. All but a couple of extra-special pairs must go. It is time to allow to the old to make way for the new, as my boys enter new and exciting phases of their lives.

Just because it has to be done though, that doesn’t make it easy.

It represents a letting go, and that is a bittersweet pill for any Mom to swallow.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ophilos/2564467134/ This photo has a creative commons attribution license.)

Advertisements

Talking Toys

19 May

The day before yesterday, I felt like buying presents for the kids. It’s not Christmas, it’s not anyone’s birthday, it was just a day when I wanted to pull out surprises for the kids when I got home and see their faces exploding with smiles.

Getting presents for James is easy. There’s just one general guideline to follow: if it has wheels, he’ll love it. When he was younger, it was Thomas the Train. Then it was Hotwheels. And for the last year or so, it’s been Disney’s Cars. The kid has about twenty Lightning McQueens and fifteen Maters, plus a Sally, a Sheriff, a Red The Fire Truck, a Doc Hudson, and all of the other characters, and it’s still not enough. The Cars obsession showed signs of starting to flag a little, but that was before the preview for Cars 2 came out.

And now the toy stores have come out with a whole new line of Cars 2 products. And so I headed straight for the display and picked out a Lightning McQueen (yes, another one) and a Mater (yes, another one). These aren’t just any Lightning and Mater, though. Some previous iterations have had features like the ability to light up or make vroom-vroom noises. These new ones do all of that AND talk!

Buying presents for George is more of a challenge. He doesn’t play with toys in the same way that other kids do. He’s into more cerebral stuff that lets him work with words or numbers, but there are only so many alphabetic fridge magnets and alphanumeric toys that you can buy for one child. The only toy toys that he really likes are Lego blocks and Mr. Potato Head. And again, he has so much of that stuff that buying more would seem like overkill. I mean, his Mr. Potato Head collection fills three large boxes.

But still, there’s always hope that Hasbro has come up with a new Mr. Potato Head character to add to Indiana Jones Taters of the Lost Ark, Darth Tater, and all the rest of them. So I headed over to the Mr. Potato Head section, and to my utter astonishment, I struck gold.

A talking Mr. Potato Head.

This thing is super-cool. You don’t even have to press any buttons to make him talk. He’s equipped with a built-in microphone that picks up on conversation and noises in the room, and he talks back. His repertoire of things to say is surprisingly extensive. An added feature is that when the room is silent, he will say things like, “Can I get some attention around here?” And if you make a sudden loud noise like banging on the table or clapping your hands, Mr. Potato Head’s pieces come flying off.

It’s a fun, fun toy. A bit challenging to have in the room when you’re trying to watch TV because it keeps providing a running commentary, but that’s a minor detail to live with. What’s really fantastic about it is how much George loves it. Getting him a toy that he instantly engages with and has fun with is such a rare experience, and we savour it.

In the meantime, James has fallen in love with his talking Cars cars. He gets them to have conversations with each other (they too, have a decent repertoire).

So things are peaceful in my house right now, with the kids each having cool new toys to play with.

And because of the nature of the toys involved, things are very, very talkative.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiraca/5651863946)

James, Trains And Automobiles

8 Apr

From the time he was a baby, James loved trains. Loved, loved, loved them. In fact, potty-training him turned out to be quite an expensive endeavour, because his rewards were trains. Not just any trains – they had to be Thomas the Train trains. I suspect that James drew out his potty-training for long enough to collect most of the Thomas the Train characters. He even got a Sir Topham Hat (who, if I’m to be honest, creeps me out just a little – I mean, he looks like an adult baby, reminiscent of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movie).

Then, about two years ago, James was given a DVD of the movie Cars, and just like that, the trains became second-class citizens in his toybox. Now it was all about Lightning McQueen, Mater, Doc Hudson, and all the rest of them. No creepy human characters in this lot – the Cars cars inhabit a world consisting solely of cars, trucks, and helicopters.

The movie is actually quite cool. It has a bit of everything: action, suspense, comedy, and a moral message. It even has those essential elements: a car chase and a love interest.

Since he first saw the movie, James has built up a staggering collection of Cars stuff. He has more Lightning McQueens than I could possibly count, as well as at least one of all of the other characters. He’s got race tracks, ramps, tipping tractors (tractor-tipping is like cow-tipping – don’t even ask), and several Radiator Springs buildings. He has a Firetruck Mater, Monster Truck Mater, Bulldozer Fighter Mater, and some good old plain Maters. His toothbrush, shoes, and backpack all feature Lightning McQueen. He’s got books, puzzles, and the Mater’s Tall Tales DVD.

Our household has probably singlehandedly kept the Disney Cars industry alive.

And now a sequel to Cars is coming out soon. In this one, Lightning McQueen competes in an international Grand Prix, and Mater gets sucked into an espionage situation (to get an idea of the incongruity of this, picture Mr. Bean trying to be James Bond).

James is dead-keen to see the movie, and not on some lame-ass TV screen. He wants the real-deal, big-screen movie theatre. And that is why his very first trip to the cinema is in his very near future.

Today, some exciting news came my way. News that will make James a very happy little boy indeed. This weekend, Lightning McQueen and Mater are in Toronto. They will be setting up camp in one of the larger shopping malls, and making themselves available for their adoring fans.

It is going to be crowded. There will be hundreds of screaming kids running around like lunatics, and hundreds of sobbing parents running after them, trying to contain them. Do I really want to put myself through that kind of stress?

Damned right I do. Seeing the look of joy on my child’s face as he beholds his Cars heroes will make it all worthwhile.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beaub/5159613205)