Friday, May 25, 2007

SILENCE! Your Evil Overlord Speaks…

There is a new law in the Den. Thus sayeth the Evil Overlord: If thou leavest thy toys upon the floor for a period exceeding a reasonable clean-up time, behold! The Evil Overlord shall call down the Wrath of the Hefty Bag upon thy miserable head! Thy toys shall be scooped therein, regardless of psychological or monetary value, and given away at My earliest convenience to a Worthy Cause.

Thus it is written, thus shall it be.


{cymbals clash, palm fronds wave frantically, buff and tanned servants hurriedly prepare fruity beverages with copious amount of vodka}

Ahem. You may be wondering what has brought on this particular bout of Egyptian-themed madness.

Then again, you probably know exactly what has brought me to this state of pissed-off-ness.

Boo Bug and Danger Mouse were sent up hours ago to clean their rooms. As they have been every afternoon for about four days now.

Every night, I have gone into their bedroom at bedtime to discover a floor so covered in toys and whatnot that you literally dare not enter the room barefooted. I walk down the darkened hallway like a soldier crossing a minefield. I have become accustomed to walking like a flamingo picking its way across a swamp through the upstairs of the Den, because of all the toys scattered all over the floors.

The battles have raged. I have used commanding, pleading, bribing, timers, ‘making a game of it’, everything I could think of to impel my darling children to clean up their @*^&@ing living space.

Because people, I have enough to do without following all four of them around picking up their detritus. Just keeping the front hallway and kitchen areas reasonably clear is a full-time job – the kids’ bedrooms, IMHO, should not be my responsibility as well.

This afternoon, I snapped like a dried up twig run over by a mountain bike ridden by a 220 pound Marine.

We had nagged those children for literally two hours to clean up that room. They had come down protesting that they were ‘done’. Yet when I staggered upstairs for a little R&R (and to get away from Mr. Pissy, who has been crying, shrieking and otherwise unreasonable for several hours now and is really irritating me), I followed a trail of unimaginable clutter to their bedroom, where I was confronted with a scene right out of How Clean Is Your House. I shrieked, I saw red, I became enraged and then…


With a cold heart that knoweth neither forgiveness nor mitigating circumstances, I just got done with the first pass. I made three piles: clothing, trash, and toys. The dirty clothing more than filled their hamper (and explained what had happened to most of the clothing they had missed last week). The trash filled the (admittedly small) bathroom trash can three times. And the toys?

One box that once delivered 20 pounds of broccoli to a supermarket, and a large trash bag.

Among the items going to charity: Several brand new Bratz dolls, only just received this very week by Danger Mouse for her birthday. She has begged and pleaded and hinted and otherwise wanted those dolls for at least six months.

But when she learned they were in the box to go to charity? ::shrug::

Evil Overlord’s response? {KAAAAABLOOOOEY!!!!!!}

Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am just a touch too tired. I took Advil PM last night and you know what? It didn’t work. Not only was I not able to get to sleep until midnight, I then woke up at 2:00 and had trouble getting back to sleep. Third night in a row of this @(^&@, so possibly I am not at my most rational right now.

And then I decided it was entirely necessary to lay down 50 cubic feet of redwood mulch around my rose bushes today. My back, she is screaming. And my left hand will not tolerate any knitting, which is not helping my mood much.

But honestly…I find this to be deeply disturbing behavior from my children.

When I was a child (oh Lord, here it comes), I was hardly deprived in the toy department – but I sure as heck valued my toys.

I played with my Barbies (more or less) gently. I dressed them. That was the whole point. You took the doll and gave her a personality and you dressed her in clothes appropriate for whatever imaginary Event said doll was attending, and you played through the Event, and then she changed clothes for the next Event.

My children strip all the clothes off Barbie, cast them onto the floor, and then leave the nekkid Barbie lying in the middle of the hallway for days and days. It’s almost as if the entire point of their toys is merely to drag them out into the middle of the floor.

If my mother had done what I just did, I would have howled fit to raise the dead, and gone into a severe depression, and complained to my father (always a soft touch and a good ally when mom was on a rampage), and otherwise done anything I could, promised any crazy thing, to get them back. And I would have made good on the promises…for, uh, a while, anyway…

My children? **yawn** “So, does that mean I don’t have to clean my room now?”

What the @^*&@*^&@!?!?!?!

Are they really so…I don’t know, what is it I’m looking for here? It’s like…they are so blessed that they don’t realize it? They have so much that they can’t appreciate it? What they want is so easily obtained that they don’t value it when it arrives?

I feel like we’ve gone wrong somehow. They just have too much, and they value nothing.

It upsets me, because for me one of the most valuable lessons I was ever taught was to appreciate what I have. It’s why I about dissolve into giggles about Homer the Odyssey (oh, I love that minivan so much) (heh…and I once said ‘death before minivan’…), and caress my various musical instruments lovingly every time I walk past them, and darn near kiss my iPod shuffle before I clip it on while cleaning. I think of how many people are worrying about having food today, and I stop for a moment to thank $DEITY that I have a minivan to wash, that I am wealthy enough to be fretting about having to dust all those stringed instruments sitting and hanging in my front room, that I am so vastly blessed that I have to remember to plug in my iPod to recharge at night.

I see my children being deprived of this. I see them taking everything they have for granted. I see their lives becoming shallow, empty of simple appreciation and perspective.

I know, they’re young. I know this is something that time and experience teaches better than parental nagging. But still…well.

I’m upset. I’m more upset that they are so blasĂ© about losing toys they have professed to love just ever so much. It infuriates me more than any amount of backtalk or outright sassing.

I think of all the children right here in this very town who would be ecstatic to have even a quarter of what my children are allowing to be discarded without a second glance, and…well. Let’s put it this way: I’m taking these boxes of perfectly good, brand new or nearly so toys to a local family shelter.

Maybe when my little ones have lost a few kilos of playthings, they’ll start to value them a little more. And meanwhile? Some children who really do have little or nothing will score some trendy, cool new friends to keep them company in unfamiliar territory.

So it is written. So it shall be.




21stCenturyMom said...

"They have so much that they can’t appreciate it?"

Bingo - I think this is what happened to my kids, too. And if something got lost or broken it got replaced. I coveted my toys and took care of them but my kids have generally been indifferent to everything. They live in a world too rich in sesnory input and rife with a lot of passive entertainment. They don't depend on physical toys for amusment - they have Nickelodean for that. I'm pretty sure that's the problem. I only wish I had figured that out when they were younger.

Get rid of the TV, DVDs and computer games (fer shure, eh?) and those dolls will take on a whole new place in your kid's lives.

RM Kahn said...

My Mother once piled my stuff in the middle of my bedroom floor to make me get the picture. I generally kept things clean. Now my brothers were a different story. The could bend steel.

I only had to box stuff up once before The Peanut got the picture. Now he just tends to stuff things into every nook and cranny of the closet and then shove the doors closed. Heaven help me if I try to open the doors.

He will be 11 this year and we have discussed him only getting some gifts from the immediate family and that if his friends want to give him something they can donate to a charity of his choice. Low and behold, he was okay with that.

One lady I knew long ago, on Thanksgiving or Christmas, would take her kids (teen or older) to a family that was in need and they would spend the day repairing and rebuilding whatever was needed.

I grew up on stories about walking to school in the snow etc.. but I also have the benefit of remembering living in a coal town, with only a coal stove in one room for heat. We didn't have much but it never felt that way. It is a hard lesson to teach the kids these days.

Ewe-niss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ewe-niss said...

I have done this a few times over the past 19 years with 4 kids. Though the one difference is that I would take the bags of stuff and put it away in the attic, or the basement for quite a while to see if anything would be really missed. My kids don't get the ton of toys and new gadgets ... I even have a 'no doo dads' rule, but even as a family that tries to purchase smaller amounts of toys for the holidays and no many in between... it still can accumulate with time and plenty of relatives.

Hang in there. I recently watched my all children dig deep into their toys, book, and electronics (that they purchased). They had me donate them to a family that had lost everything in a fire. The same children many years earlier where I had been in your shoes with the mess... rooms still messy, but there are clean moments too.

Kris said...

We do the same thing in our house. Caleb (age 4) get one warning on those days where I can't stand it any more. Usually, the warning consists of placing a very large box in the play room. It is amazing how tidy the room becomes in such a short period of time.

If he has done a reasonable job the box goes away empty. If not - then someone else gets great toys.

Jen said...

I agree that kids today have too much. My youngest could open a toy store with what she has! But the one thing I've found to be effective when it's time to clean the room is to give them one thing to deal with at a time. e.g. go in your room and pick up all of your barbies and put them away then come see me. When it's done... go pick up all of the toy cars and put them away. And to keep arguments to a minimum? Don't have them working on the same task. Give each their own thing to pick up. It's not a game... just breaking the chore up into managable tasks. The reason I do this? Because all of that stuff on the floor is overwhelming. Even I get overwhelmed when I see it. I've done the throw things in a bag and get rid of it thing. Some of it was missed, other things they never even asked about.

Also... I took my youngest to a Build-A-Bear type place. The girl working there told me several of her customers have made it a rule that the only way their kids can get a new stuffed animal is if they give away 5 of the ones they already have to Goodwill. This is going into practice at my house this summer and will include all toys.

What I find humorous is that my grandfather always told my mom that we had too much and didn't get the chance to appreciate any one thing. Now my mom tells me the same thing. Wonder if my grandpa's mom was told the same thing by her mother/father? I doubt it. Grandpa's Christmas usually consisted of an apple or an orange (not both) and a pair of mittens. And his dad had a decent job and made pretty good money for the time!

buffi said...

Girl, you must have a camera hidden in my house. I have done the exact same thing at least three times in the past few weeks. Right down to the big, black Hefty bags. And what is missed? Not much.

The other day, I got, "I can't find the car box." (giant box FULL of hot wheels) followed my much wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes upon learning of its demise. But after that? No mention.

I have even told them that the toys are going to children who have no toy and thus will appreciate and care for them.

Honestly, my kids are like yours: they seemed relieved to have less to clean up. Bug has already lost a couple of birthday presents (although not that blasted harmonica). Bear's bd is Thursday. We'll see how long he hangs onto his gifts...

Jeanne said...

Hi, MOC, this is in response to your comment on my blog (where is your email addy?) about the house. It's pastoral and the setting is lovely. Trouble is, the house is a wreck. Whomever buys it will need to have the resources to be able to replace the roof and old wood siding, blow in insulation, and THEN renovate it. Mucho dinero. That's why I'm not living in it. It's so sad. I'm pouting, too.

On the subject of Toy Overload: last Christmas was the first one with the new grand-nieces. They are spoiled. How spoiled? They got so many presents that they lost interest in unwrapping them. Yeah. They GOT BORED with opening Christmas presents. They are gonna be trouble as they age, aren't they?

Science PhD Mom said...

We still have Christmas presents for DD that she hasn't gotten yet. She got so much that it took a week to open it all, because she got bored and we spread out a few presents per day. We pleaded with grandparents not to send so much, but they did it we cut back on what we were going to give her.

We are now culling toys for DS, and we are going to end up rotating toys. She already has several Lil People toys in the closet and she hasn't even missed them. I am going to restrict more & dole them out as she gets bored. We are also curtailing TV time, as it's too passive. More crayons and art time and just general playtime. It will also force me to get them out of the house for walks while the weather is nice! It benefits everyone--good luck achieving balance.

Anonymous said...

I do this too! All toys not put away get tossed into a black plastic bag. They get 24 hours to rescue it but there is no second reprieve if it is left lying out again.

I also regularly stash their Christmas and Birthday presents and can then pull out a 'new' and interesting toy on a rainy day. They rarely notice it has disappeared the day after it is unwrapped and all the toys get a turn in the limelight when I most need a break from the "I'm bored"s.

Jigsaws are especially good for this. We have a rule with jigsaws, there can be NO other toys out when we are doing jigsaws. Also, jigsaws are a family activity - we each do our own jigsaw, but all at the same time (saves arguments, I find!)This makes them a rather special thing and the kids see it as a huge treat.

Rabbitch said...

We're getting close to that point also. The goal seems to be to obtain the items, not to actually USE them. I think on Monday when the kid goes back to school, I'm going to cull about 25% of her stuff.

Bet she never notices, either.

As for the cleaning up, my husband has hardly ever lifted an item off the floor (or even put his dishes in the sink or garbage in the garbage can) in 11 years ... can't see why my kid would think she had to either.

Amy Lane said...

And it's such a hard wire to walk... because you LOVE them, and you want to GIVE them EVERYTHING...but when they don't appreciate it, it's really easy to blame yourself.

My problem is that my children do value their toys. They value EACH and EVERY useless piece of frickin' plastic--they will play with the old ones and put them back and play with the new ones and FREAK OUT if they lose a toy from the set (no matter how old or new) that they are playing with right now. And I don't know how to get rid of them...I just don't. I bet your house feels like it lost weight...mine is still wallowing in toy nostalgia...

Anonymous said...

Back when we could afford a cleaning lady, I had a wonderful one that used to do the bag-it-up-and-hide-it deal with my kids' stuff. They never missed it, either. It's sad, they beg for that junk and, like Rabbitch says, it's just to GET it, not to HAVE it.

It seems to get better as they get older, though...mostly I think because now they have to buy their own things with their allowances.

Anonymous said...

To say I understand your point of view is to put it oh so mildly.

I also have four offspring, all boys. And the appreciation factor of their belongings, their home, their rooms, etc. is in the negative numbers for each of them.

We, too, are puzzled. We do not buy toys frequently. We do not fulfill every wish or desire. Yet we do have four boys, so toys do tend to stick around, getting handed down and so forth, which leads to a bit of a...onslaught of toys that never leave.

Although I wish I could explain (especially to the 5 year old twins) that giving things away frees up space and blesses a less fortunate kiddo with a wonderful plaything, I know what a tortured road that is to hoe.

So - there go I, doing the plundering and hiding strategy, and stating that if a child asks about a "missing toy", I will gently point out that Mama felt the toy was unloved and required a more hospitable place to reside.

After all, what Mama allows in, Mama can throw out.
: )

Helen said...

Bless you!
I threaten this often. It usually works.
Sometimes, I simply quietly take the toy that is STILL in the freakin' living room, and deposit it in the Bag that Will Go To GoodWill (or whereever) as soon as its full.
I say nothing, the toy just disappears.

Some day, I'll get the nerve to actually dispose of all the Disney Movies that are here 50% for the kids and 50% for me. I like knowing that I can watch Aladdin any time I want to... but I'd love to take away every one that I find on the floor, not rewound, and far from it's box.