Sometimes when people ask me what I do, I say that I’m a Toy Management Executive and I’m only half joking.
Just for a laugh, I will occasionally give myself brackets – you know, Toy Management Executive (Lego), or lately (Pokemon cards and Warhammer figures). The laugh is hollow, by the way, because I am crying inside. The hours I have spent sifting through a rising tide of plastic is nobody’s business. Sometimes, as I struggle through yet another mountain of debris left by gleeful kids,
I think of the things I could have achieved had I not been knee-deep in Made in China.
And then I look at my sons and give myself a slap and remind myself that this is just part of being a mum and I shouldn’t complain.
Perhaps it is a sign that my pampered pair are just too spoilt. No special occasion is complete without a mound of gifts. One Christmas, we had to pause present opening to have lunch. When we finally finished and the house was filled with ripped wrapping paper and new delights from Toys R Us, Grandad popped out to the car and returned, triumphantly, bearing yet more presents while we forced a rictus grin. He was just showing how much he cared, of course, but all I could think of was how on earth I was going to cram that lot into one of those Ikea storage thingys, which was already full to overflowing. The same grandparents, who I love dearly, are pacifists, who raised my husband without ever giving him a toy gun to play with. They have made up for it by arming my two little boys to the teeth with everything from plastic swords and axes to an archery set, rifles and even a rocket launcher.
“Part of the process of parenting is the annual clear out of toys which have served their purpose.”
Some are broken, others are simply outgrown. Some mothers are really efficient at this and scarily so. A friend cleared out all her child’s plastic monstrosities once he turned three– which I felt was just too early. He was then expected to learn to do The Times crossword and discuss politics around the dinner table and become a mini grown-up. If anything, I have erred on the side of hanging on to things for much too long, as evidenced by the flotilla of plastic ducks, squidgy monsters and squirty gizmos hanging somewhat mouldily in those nets with suction pads, over the bathtub. I finally got shot of them very recently, probably ten years too late.
There was a time when I had a recurring dream about being buried under a pile of Lego, struggling to breathe or for anyone to hear my screams but on the whole, I have made my peace with that particular toy because it is just so brilliant. As the mother of a dyslexic child, for whom reading has always been a dreadful struggle, Lego has proved a godsend, an outlet for his creativity which is unmatched by any other toy. Although, the pain it can inflict on the unsuspecting bare foot is legendary, so whenever entering his bedroom, I put on shoes and proceed with caution.
The toys I hate most are those really cumbersome lumps of plastic – toy firestations, aeroplanes with loading bays and spaceships. A particular Star Wars spaceship is much loved but rarely complete because bits have dropped off it over the years and I have no idea where they are. For all I know, they have made their way to another part of the galaxy but the most likely explanation is that they are hiding in a drawer with the itsy-bitsy money from the Playmobil set.
But I digress. I was meant to be talking about clearance. You see, I just can’t get around to it. Well, I did finally get on with it and get rid of not one but TWO car bootloads to the charity shop. I did this by stealth, when the children were out at a Lego robot building course. I feared there would be tears otherwise, even though they haven’t played with the Ninja Turtles pizza flinging game or the rubbish collection truck or the assortment of other plastic cars for years. The last time I tried it, they were in the house and I was caught red handed. It was Buzz Lightyear who gave the game away. I had a black bin liner full of plastic horrors and the boys were safely tucked up in front of the telly. As I sneaked down the stairs, Buzz sprang to life and his booming voice echoed around the hall: “I am BUZZ LIGHTYEAR! I have come to save the universe!” The mission was aborted as two little heads peered around the living room door to see what I was up to:
“Mummy, why have you got Buzz Lightyear in that rubbish bag?”
This time, there was nobody to hear the last desperate whirrs and squeaks of Buzz and the plastic fantastic crew as I carted them off to the charity shop. It was good by to all that tat and I heaved a sigh of relief as I could finally close the lid on the toybox.
The best bit was that the boys didn’t even notice when they got home that afternoon. That was because they were too busy fighting over the ipad…