I could never lead the A-team, because my plans never come together. For example, while it occurred to me that children might serve as a great excuse to play with toys again, I couldn’t have anticipated how my scheme would go awry. Here, let me explain.
Reasons to Have Children, #9: Toys
We always used to say that we wouldn’t spoil our daughter with toys, but that plan was undone by two facts. First, our daughter is so cute that we forget ourselves; we lavish her with gifts because we’re addicted to her smile. Second, and perhaps more importantly, my wife arranged for our friends to give us an unreasonably large collection (which subsequently tried either to kill us or humiliate us, but we don’t hold a grudge).
What I’ve discovered is that the toys for very young children are the best sort, if you’re willing to set dignity aside. They’re brightly colored, approachable, and cute. Even better, they tend to make an array of enjoyable noises, from clicks and pops to dings and whistles, which is all the fun of a smart phone with out the expensive contract. Some of them perform festive stunts, too, such as launching balls into the air or spinning them around in plastic enclosures. (Most of the stunts involve plastic balls actually, probably because balls have no sharp edges, but more on that some other time.) They’re delightful in fact, so delightful that I don’t mind how silly I look when I play with them.
The problem is that I enjoy them more than my daughter does. She prefers garbage.
I suppose she comes by it rightly; we introduced her to it for the purpose of keeping her entertained. We were desperate to distract her one day, and the only object available that would neither hurt her nor be hurt was a plastic water bottle. Sadly, those were pretty much the standards to which we had sunk: as long as she survived the encounter and didn’t ruin something important in the process, we were willing to try almost anything. The bottle was a smash hit, or a trash hit if you’re a fan of puns. (Which I am.)
Her eyes couldn’t have gotten bigger without building additions onto her skull. She couldn’t decide whether to suck on it or try to crush it, so she kept switching between the two. Then, after she had slobbered it up nicely, she had a hard time holding onto it. As you can imagine, that turned it into a game which was even more amusing than the sucking and crushing. She probably played with that bottle for an hour, no mean feat for an infant.
After that our living room floor started housing as much of our garbage as our garbage can did. We gave her anything that was shiny, crinkly, bendable, crushable, fill-able, roll-able, or thump-able. If you want to do an interesting experiment, you can investigate your own trash to see what meets those criteria. For us anyway, the answer was “just about everything.” Once we eliminated all of the sticky stuff and anything small enough to swallow, we had a treasure trove of distraction. As a bonus, if she destroyed any of it, we could just return that item to our garbage can with any guilt or worry.
The only problem was that she learned to view garbage cans as a sort of toy box. That habit took a while to break, and was awkward to explain to guests. Also, I still wanted to play with her toys even after she was through with them. I didn’t enjoy the garbage as much as she did, probably because I knew what it was. (Not a piece of it did anything exciting with plastic balls.)
Still, children are the best excuse around for spending a significant portion of my day playing. Plus, I get to go into toy stores again without it seeming odd. If I remember to take my daughter along, I don’t even worry the other parents.