Excess Under Control

Yesterday, we celebrated my littlest son’s 2-year birthday. I was determined this year not to get carried away buying gifts for Bodhi and to buy him mostly useful things. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the whole experience and he was too. He got a set of ceramic Eric Carle dishes (something he’ll hopefully hand down to his kids someday), a wooden garbage truck, a few books, Croc shoes (for helping mommy in the garden), a shirt and jacket, and a toy horse from his brother. The garbage truck and a some of the books were from me/us (mom and dad) and the rest from other relatives. It felt like just the right amount and he wasn’t overwhelmed with a smorgasbord of toys. So far, the Croc shoes and the horse get the most attention. Apparently orange Crocs are a necessary accessory when galloping his horse through the house. 

Seems like with my first son, I went a tad overboard. Ok, I’ll admit it: we’re drowning in toys. Our house is like a day care center – a toy or game for every stage of development. Indeed, I believe the neighbor kids prefer playing over at our house – just for our toys.

With my first little guy, Cedar, I was always going to toy stores to get just one more little thing. I’d collect them in my closet until the next holiday or big event. I used some of them as bribes when we were potty training him (a very difficult and lengthy task, in his case). I bought new trinkets whenever we were about to take a long car trip. I bought things because…well, because the toys these days are pretty darn neat. Ok. I bought toys because in my childhood, I would have like to play with these nifty things. But oh, how those little things added up. Boxes and boxes of little things. 

My theory with my first son was if he had enough stuff, he might be entertained just long enough that I could oh, I don’t know, read a few pages of a book or pay the bills or cook dinner. Let me tell ya, it didn’t work. Out of all the shelves and boxes of toys, he plays with just a handful of things at a time and they are seldom things that even belong to the same set. He often takes our things – tools, pens, paperclips, things he finds lying around the house and adds them to his collection. And, when Cedar was little, he mostly liked to do what I was doing – dusting, cooking dinner, mopping the floors, gardening…

My generation was certainly not deprived of toys, but we didn’t have nearly the selection (not that the majority of toys these days are anything more than plastic junk from China). For Christmas, we usually got one “big” thing that we really wanted (a special doll, a dollhouse, an erector set, a kitten) and the rest was something like clothes and books or maybe a stuffed animal thrown in the mix. 

In my own defense, however, I’m not solely at fault. The generosity of our  large combined family has played a considerable part in our plethora of toys. And, we’ve tried, when we bought larger items, to buy “educational” or quality wooden toys from Europe. And, some of those, I don’t regret buying. Our wooden play stove and it’s accompanying play food and pots/pans has seen a great deal of use. But the rest of the junk, I just keep sorting through and “purging” when the mood strikes me. At least some other kid will get the pleasure of playing with our hand-me-downs.

As for the future, I’m striving to make our gift-giving and receiving ever more simple. Fewer things means things more appreciated, less money spent, fewer consumed resources.

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