Why Purging the Kids’ Toys Makes Parents Sad
I made the kids sort through old toys last weekend and our donation pile is enormous. And that makes me sad! It's not just the emotional attachment. It has much more to do with good ole parental guilt.
Sorting through old toys is always an exercise in emotional detachment for me. I usually have to go into another room and let the kids get reckless and ruthless with the process. I can't watch. If I'm in the room I'll talk them into saving almost everything because every toy reminds me of a different growth stage and I don't want to part with any of the memories. That, of course, defeats the whole purpose. Ban Mama from the room so the kids can get some good work done.
When we initiate the toy purge, they always have instructions to toss things into one of three piles: keep it, donate it, or trash it. We hauled two big black trash bags to the garbage bin on Sunday, and I didn't even look inside the sacks when I carried them out. I couldn't. I just tied the knot and tossed the bags, hoping at least that they didn't discard the pet fish. It felt like old coloring books, markers that have run out of color, and board games with missing pieces, as far as I could tell. Blind is better.
The donation pile is sitting by the front door now, waiting to be picked up, and it makes me sadder than that big stuffed giraffe every time I walk by it. The giraffe used to make Piper so happy, and she would cuddle up with it any time fear got the best of her when she was three. Now she's eight, and that poor giraffe has been tossed into a pile of unwanteds, right there with the Easy-Bake Oven, Legos, and a battery-powered turtle. I hope they all find good homes.
The emotional factor is legit for parents, but I think guilt plays a role too. When I see that sad giraffe now, I wonder if I spent enough time with Piper when she was three, four, and five, along with that giraffe. Did I make her feel safe like the giraffe did? Was I "in the moment" with her, or was I cooking, working, or doing laundry when she needed me, and she went to the giraffe instead? So many things around the house have little zings, zaps, and mental twinges, associated with them. Ugh. And navigating our way through that emotional minefield can be a challenge as a parent. I mean, I know I've stepped on plenty of Legos and I did lose a toenail once because I kicked a Sit-n-Spin in the middle of the night, but have I spent enough quality time with the kids and these toys?
Dang, that parental guilt. Since the toys are a reminder of it, maybe it is a good thing that the toy purge is happening. It will be a fresh start. And a reminder to be in the moment as often as possible from here on out.