Recently, I have been on a spate of house cleaning. It is one of the things that makes me feel productive and that I am turning a corner on something. Of course, the things I really should be focusing on are left undone, but I feel so much better about life that it is ok. A while back, I put together furniture and created a playroom in my former office. My wife and daughter roughly organized the toys in a bin organizer, and that work slowly devolved as my daughter stuffed each bin with pieces of paper on which she had drawn one mark and could never be parted from again. These precious papers obscured everything and were garnished liberally with sheets of unused stickers. Organizing those bins was on my wife and my shared list of things to do, but I could not take it anymore. The corner of my brain that is compulsively organized, and it by no means my whole brain, finally got frustrated with not being able to find anything in the play room. During one of my son’s naps recently, my daughter and I organized everything and even worked on letting go of some of those scraps to the recycle bin. I put temporary labels on the bins that will be replaced with words and pictures once the organization gets final approval and modification from my wife. Ahhhhhhh.
Tag Archives: Toys
On the beach, pebbles and even shards of glass wash in and out until they are worn smooth and ready to be collected as treasures by the next bather. Driftwood and even the less pleasant detritus of civilization also float in and out. Mounds of seaweed are deposited and then sometimes pulled back in by the surf.
And so our family’s shores are subject to this rhythmic and cyclical ebb and flow of stuff–of clothes, of toys, of the paraphernalia of rearing children. Recently, my wife and I made a concerted effort to fling bags of clothes and toys along with a high chair and more back into the endless sea of new and expecting parents.
One item we bought on our trip to IKEA was this play circus tent. The kids have loved playing in it. It is amazing how much joy and creativity twenty dollars can provide. The kids play fairly well together inside, and it another point of focus for their blossoming interactive play.
Over the last few days, we have had two house guests, friends from our college days, staying with us, and my father-in-law staying at my brother-in-law’s house. Our guests came to attend another college friend’s wedding on Friday, and our FIL cared for the two kids to free up both my wife and me for this celebration. The ceremony and the whole event were wonderful. The bride, our friend, was truly radiant and joyous.
In the midst of the bedlam of extra people in the house, event schedules that are not necessarily aligned with our children’s timing, and being cared for by others, our kids did pretty well. Both are showing signs of needing a bit more attention, and both realize on some level that their mommy is leaving today for a trip. I think the ripples should settle by Tuesday or so.
One ripple was that one of our house guests, in a beautiful gesture of reaching out to us and of generosity, brought some presents for the kids. For our daughter, she brought a Cinderella doll which I did not even see. I was working in my office, and my wife came in to inform me she had seen it too late, and now our daughter was asking for it.
A quick switcheroo was performed prior to my wife coming in, and my daughter was occupied by the sticker book that had been meant for my son, but she still wanted the doll. My wife and I huddled and came up with a plan. I had to be out the door in fifteen minutes to chauffeur my friends and their parents to their wedding (I even ordered a costume cap to play the role!).
We called our daughter into my office and closed the door. Obviously this was different from normal, and she hunkered down; I worried that she was thinking she had done something wrong. We explained that it was about the doll. I asked her what she knew about Cinderella, and her response was, “She’s a princess.” Disney has indeed penetrated this market. I then asked her what Cinderella’s story was, and my daughter did not know. She did parrot back the words I have been saying that princesses (and other royalty) have to take money from people rather than doing jobs like mommy and daddy. I really have to stop that line of reasoning. She just wanted the doll because it represents what she sees in the clothing, language, toys, and behavior of her peers.
I gave a quick synopsis of the story pointing out that Cinderella had a loving father, that her step mother and sisters were not nice to her, and that the prince liked her because of how she looked. I also talked about at the end of the story, Cinderella’s step mother and sisters were hurt, and maybe that would not help them from being mean. Bottom line, Cinderella was a loving person who could do things like cooking and cleaning like we do. However, the point of this story is that some one liked her just for how she looked.
We then talked about why we choose our friends, and we came up with a list together. My daughter chipped in as much as my wife and me about traits: caring, creative, smart, etc.
At that point, I noticed the Lego Mindstorms kit I brought home from school to learn this summer. I offered these things:
- We would find dolls of people who fit our list of what makes a good friend. I have found these, and am looking for more.
- She and I would learn the mindstorms together
My daughter seemed to accept this solution and even wanted to start that moment with the kit. Now I have to research dolls to see what might fit with our conditions. At least they should not be branded and have a predetermined role and story.
My wife talked several times with our friend who was completely gracious and supportive of our parenting; she is a parent, too. Later during the reception I entered one of these conversations, and she clearly articulated her perspective on it. I absolutely respect her opinions while at the same time not sharing all of them. I am just thankful that she seems not put out by this incident. I hope that it will not affect her relationship with my wife, and at the same time, I tremendously value my wife’s support in these issues.
Billions of dollars are being spent to make me want things. I don’t want to fall prey to these huge corporations to fill their coffers, and I don’t want my thinking molded by their ads. I don’t even want my thinking to be molded by the many terrible personalities portrayed in media. I kid myself in thinking I can isolate myself from the influence that surrounds me much as the Atlantic Ocean surrounds a lone fish.
I seek to build resistance to these same influences in my children. The same culture, however, is filled with critical thinking even if it, too, is a fad at times. The recent food movement, part of a cyclical pastoral movement, is no exception. I have read Omnivore’s Dilemma and Farm City among other books on the topic. As a child, I lived through the last surge of food consciousness and spent countless hours tending the fairly large garden in our backyard. All of this push back from mass-produced food and popular culture creates a culture of its own, and that culture is now being fully merchandised and promoted. One of the several toy stores near our house has a display in its window of a whole collection of Playmobil farm themed figures, equipment, and buildings. There are very few farms or farmers nearby, so this offering is about make believe just like the pirates and the castles. Yet, I am drawn to this particular set, and in this I am swayed by the billions of dollars that did research to see what types of adults live in this area and what they would purchase for their children. But, golly, I want it!