Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stuff It!

Eli, with his latest acquisition 

Our house is overrun with my son’s stuffed animals. There are HUNDREDS of creatures, from armadillos to zebras. Aliens. Robots. Dinosaurs. Not to mention the entire cast of Yo Gabba Gabba, all the Wonderpets, and a whole flock of Angry Birds.

I feel like Noah when I sit on the couch, or E.T. in the closet, surrounded (and in some cases, upon) my son’s menagerie. Admittedly, some DO make good pillows, but most have pointy pokey parts that violate my more sensitive areas. And many tend to squeak, shriek, or sing when you apply pressure on them, which never fails to freak me out.

So, after we recently managed to remove a carload of “hard” toys that he had outgrown by donating them to a local preschool, I thought we could do the same with the stuffed ones. Knowing how much he likes them (and recalling how he reacted when he caught me putting his Weeble Treehouse in the donation pile), my wife and I offered him a reasonable deal: For every ten stuffed animals he got rid of, we would buy him one new one.  It seemed like a true win-win, and I saw NO problems with this plan

Until he showed us the ten he designated for deportation.

“You can’t give away DJ Lance Rock!” my wife said.

“I LOVE those Ugly Dolls,” I whined.

“Grandma gave that to you!”

“He was you FAVORITE when you were a baby…”

“You won that at the carnival!”


It seemed like everything had sentimental value, and the ones HE wasn’t attached to, WE were.

“Try again,” we told him.

The Ten Castaways

The next time, he came back with the ones pictured above.  And while we (my wife and I) felt a little better about this selection, there were still some choices that left us with misgivings (indicated by sad faces L)

Top Row

Little Blue Bird: part of a cute shape sorting set that I got him for his first Christmas L

Little Bunny: something my wife had since SHE was a baby L

Bug Eyed Raccoon Looking Thing: Christmas gift from his cousin Jamie. I think it’s cool, but not overly attached

Green Alien in Underpants: Came with a book. I think he’s funny, but won’t miss it

Blue Moose: Eli’s favorite toy as an infant. It was strapped to his car seat and provided hours of entertainment. So much so, that when it got left behind in a restaurant, I drove back the next day to retrieve it L L L

Bottom Row

Red Bear(?): Good  riddance. That thing yelped and yodeled whenever you squeezed its belly, and could seriously bite your finger! NOTE: My wife just informed me she felt a tinge of sadness, as the Blue Bear(?) is still here, and apparently they hold hands and yelp and yodel in unison. I say trash them both!

Oogie Boogie: Bought last year on a whim. Eli shares my love for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, but apparently not for the bad guy in it L

Mangled Sock Monkey: Even though it only has one barely attached arm, no eyes, and stuffing coming out of it, his sister, Julianna, made it with her own two hands L L

Dollar Store Baby Doll: bought as a prop for a movie making camp I run. I have dozens of them, and we usually destroy several a summer. Eli found it in the back of my truck. Zero sentimental value (or real value, for that matter!)

Creepy Monkey: When its batteries are on, this armpit hair covered chimp emits oddly lifelike baby noises, and moves it eyes and mouth in a very unsettling way. Given to ME as a gag gift by my niece many years ago, this thing has made the rounds. I have regifted it several times, but it somehow always manages to find its way back to me. Jury is still out as to how I feel about it.

5 out of 10? In all honesty, this is shocking to me. I truly believed I’d be happy if ALL the animals disappeared, yet here I am, fretting over 50% of them? What the hell happened to me? Did I suddenly turn softer than the creatures I was looking to evict? I’ve never been particularly sentimental. Sure,  every once in a while, I’m surprised by what I find myself attached to, but this is ridiculous!

Personally,  I think it was the selection process. Had a genie showed up and took them all away with a wave of his wand (or whatever the hell genies use) I think I would have been okay. But seeing the poor little guys getting selected and rejected by the boy who once loved them made be sad.

Not sad enough to save the furry freaks, mind you, but sad just the same.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hide and Sneak

I’m not sure what I just did…

I just got back from Home Depot with my 5-year old, where he had made a heart-shaped box that he wanted to give to his mother on Valentines Day, and he asked me where he could put it so she wouldn’t see it.

I refrained from the obvious joke: “In the closet, next to the vacuum cleaner,” and went with the obvious answer: “In your bedroom.”

He looked at me wide-eyed. “In my bedroom?”

Now, up to this point, I had taken full responsibility for the hiding of gifts. Christmas and birthday presents that “we” bought for her, I left in my truck. Handmade things he created for her, I stowed in the garage.  So, I mistook his confusion as simply surprise that I was deviating from the script.

“Sure,” I said. “Run up there now while she’s in the other room.”

“But she goes in there!” he said. “She’ll see it tonight, because it’s her turn to read me a story.”

“Just put it somewhere where you don’t think she’ll look…”

“You mean, I can hide things in my room?” he asked, his eyes gleaming with mischief.

Oh shit, what did I just do?  Did it really never occur to this boy that that’s precisely what bedrooms are for? 

I know he’s only five, but isn’t it ingrained in our DNA that bedrooms have doors, and doors equal privacy?

Then again, based on how he disregards bathroom doors, I shouldn’t have been surprised. It took me weeks to train him that, when in a public bathroom, it was not polite to peek under the closed stall door to “see who was in there.”

At least he’s always been pretty good about bedroom doors, knowing he should knock before entering.  Granted, he does not wait for our permission to enter, but there’s usually enough time for us to, um, disengage, thus saving any awkward explanations about why we were just acting out the cover of Hop on Pop.

But there I was, enlightening my son that his room was not just a place to sleep and play, but also a place to keep secrets from his parents.  And even though it’s common knowledge, and a basic human need, it still felt wrong.  It was like I was teaching him how to be devious. 

Growing up, I had three older brothers, so I knew all about closed doors and hiding spots. But even if I was an only child, there’s no way my dad would have taken me aside and said, “Son, see how this here mattress lifts up? It’s the perfect spot for hiding thin items, like, maybe, that Cosmo mag you “borrowed” from your mom. As for things that you don’t want to crush, like, say, that pack of cigarettes you stole from me?  That old Boggle game in your closet, the one with the missing timer and no E cube, is a great place. Now, let me tell you what you can do with those socks in your top drawer…”

Disturbing, right? But I feel like that’s what I just did. On a much smaller scale of course.  It just never occurred to me that being sneaky is a learned behavior.  I assumed it was something we are all born with. Yet, I clearly just taught my kid his first lesson on how to hide things from his mother. Sure, it was for a cute reason, and he has the best of intentions, but how long until he’s using the same strategy for “bad” reasons? 

I’m not looking forward to those days, but at least I’ll know where to start looking!