Saturday, December 12, 2009


I’ve just been cleaning up while Sleepy James has his morning nap. It’s a process that to an outside observer must look like I’m working in the rice paddies, but instead of bending over to plant I’m bending down reaching for the next toy. Bend over, pick up, toss in toy basket, move on, repeat process. And when I find myself on my hands and knees looking under furniture, I wonder aloud as to the origins of all of James’ toys. And every time I’ve picked something up and tossed it into the toy basket James’ Sesame Street guitar has sprung to life, punching out a tune and offering me the opportunity to ‘Jam with Elmo, Jam with Elmo’.

So, where did they all come from? Maybe they’ve multiplied like those asexual single celled organisms I remember from biology, undergoing cell division so you start with one, then two, four, eight, sixteen … and so on and so forth. Or perhaps and more likely they’ve come, mostly from China, via aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, colleagues and clients. One thing’s for sure, we certainly didn’t buy them all.

Toys, toys and more toys. Soft ones, plastic ones, noisy ones, multi-pieced ones. James has so many toys I’m sure there are many that exist in his bedroom that he’s never actually seen before. And there’s more. We have toys in the house that will randomly start up through the night as though they’re possessed and when that happens they can scare the living crap out of you. And then there are toys with sharp edges that hurt like buggery when you step on them in the dark of night as you venture to the bathroom.

And Baby James is only one year old, and we only have one child, and a cat, Keith, who also has toys.

So how do you manage them all? Well, we’ve created a toy bank, taking some out of circulation and periodically returning others. A strategy I know a lot of parents do to minimise the amount of potential mess and to maximise the life of a toy so that everything old seems new again.

I remember my mum used to get annoyed with my Uncle Jim and his choice of presents. He loved gadgets and come birthdays and Christmas we were certain to receive presents that required batteries. This would haunt mum, as no sooner as their car had turned the corner, the batteries would run out and so it would be, endless purchases of Duracels. Even the environmentally friendly idea of re-chargeable batteries didn’t work. We were little kids and little kids lose their teeth and they’re stuck in your mouth, so invariably we would lose the expensive rechargeable batteries too.

And so there it is, toys, often useful for teaching while occupying a child’s time and also allowing for exploration, yet sometimes the bane of a parent’s existence. So a big thankyou to all who have contributed to James’ toy bank, the thought is appreciated, the result sometimes is not. And finally back to the guitar, non-offensive it may be most of the time as it lies silently under the lounge, but when Noisy James has it in his hands and it springs to life over and over and over again and its just about driven me bonkers, well Elmo, all I can think is watch out because if I get my hands on you, when I jam something it’s going to make you wince a little.


  1. A wonderful post, and beautifully written.

    Ah well do I remember collecting kid's toys. Once a year, during the Christmas holidays I would make it my business to put all the toy sets, the lego, the barbies, the various educational aids back into order. Every set complete and for five minutes I would savour the order until,of course they all got mixed up together again until the next year.

    I'm glad that part of parenting is behind me, but in a strange way it was fun, not quite the rice paddy field variety you describe, but there is something restorative in the daily haphazard reordering of life and the annual more vigorous spring clean.

  2. I find that subconsciously I balance James' enjoyment of learning through chaos theory and my need for adult normalcy with cleanliness and order the KPI's. I'm yet to master the game where James is encouraged and praised when he cleans up. Maybe a goal for his 2nd and subsequent years.

  3. PS. I forgot to mention the toys which due to their hardness either act as dangerous projectiles with the capacity to brain you or when used in a banging fashion leave their imprint in the lovely furntiure My Sweet and I purchased during the blissful period of coupledom