Yes, I know this sounds melodramatic. But you guys, I think a little bit of melodrama is called for right about now.
I’m Taking Away my Kids’ Toys for Christmas
Here’s how I got to this point…
18 months ago I bought a house. This may not sound like a huge deal, but I’m going to take a step back here and toot my own horn.
Over the course of the last 7 years, I have: become a mother of twins, graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, juggled TWO jobs so I can have flexibility (counter-intuitive, I know) to be a present mother and still keep the lights on, kept TWO tiny humans alive, kept myself reasonably sane, and I BOUGHT A MOTHER-EFFING HOUSE.
I worked my TAIL off for this house – not just to buy it, but to make it a home. I have spent countless late nights ripping out carpet, sanding, cutting, and painting. I have poured blood, sweat, and tears into this house. I am going to die in this house. This is our FOREVER home.
This is the home where we will put down roots. Get to know our neighbors. Make life-long friends. Become involved in our community. Instead of being that single mom who bounces around from rental to rental every few years.
I work (present-tense) HARD for this house.
The Elephant in the Room: I’m a Single Mom
I don’t often talk about this, but I’m a single mom.
I also don’t really feel comfortable calling myself a single mom. I mean, yes I am single. But I don’t do it alone. I have an insane tribe, y’all. Like, pinch-me-I-think-GOD-made-a-mistake-but-don’t-say-anything-in-case-she-notices-and-changes-her-mind, kind of insane.
I have BOTH my parents nearby, and they are super-active grandparents. Taxi service, dance recitals, volunteering at school, play dates, moment’s-notice babysitting, They do it ALL. Then there’s my squad of neighbors and school moms who would drop anything on a moment’s notice if I needed help.
I also have a co-parent with whom the kids spend one weeknight and every-other-weekend. He and I will always have room for improvement on the co-parenting front, but he is a GOOD dad. Well, he is a FUN DAD.
Single Mom Guilt is REEEAAALLL, Y’all
Now, I don’t want to trash talk FUN DAD, because… well… He is a FUN guy. He is a Disney movies, theme parks, video games, large crowds, candy and soda every time you stop at the gas station, “sure, you can have a TV in your bedroom”, LET’S BUY ALL THE TOYS kind of a guy.
And I’m more of a don’t forget swim registration opens tomorrow, oh… and I had to bribe the secretary to get back-to-back appointments at the doctor’s office, I think I should refinance my student loans, let’s organize the junk drawer for fun, I tell the kids that sparkling water is soda, please don’t make me leave the house today kind of a gal.
One is not better or worse than the other. We’re just different. And I may be biased here, but I think we’re raising a couple of pretty stinkin’ awesome tiny humans.
BUT… In a head-to-head FUN competition, I lose every time.
What does this have to do with your house or taking away toys, crazy lady?
When I bought our house, I felt like super mom. We had a yard – and a fence. We got a dog. I let the kids paint the walls in their bedrooms. We. Had. A. Playroom.
I got to be FUN mom. Well, just a little.
But if I’m totally honest with myself right now, I am miserable. And I worked way too hard to be miserable in this house.
MORE isn’t always better
Our new house has FIVE (count them… 1,2,3,4,5) bedrooms for us to fill with STUFF.
And yes, this is one of Newton’s Laws: where there is empty space, STUFF will fill it.
Our old house had order. Everything was organized. We had less stuff. We had two bedrooms and NO playroom.
I take that back. They did have a playroom. It was a closet. Literally. I turned a closet into a playroom. It sounds waaayyy worse than it actually was, but I really enjoyed the look on people’s faces when I told them that I stuck my kids in a closet for extended periods of time.
But now we are drowning in STUFF, and now even a simple walk across the playroom is a life-threatening event because there is a 100% chance I will trip on one of the 4,672 small toys laying on the floor.
In fact, the kids rarely play in there at all. It’s too messy.
They gear up like little soldiers about to cross an active minefield, grab what they want to play with, dart out of there with lightning speed, and then they sprawl out across the living and dining room.
Nothing ever gets put away, on account of the active minefield conditions mentioned before. The cycle continues until I lose my ever loving mind. I erupt to a decibel level I would rather not admit to in writing, and I threaten to put everything in big garbage bags if the kids don’t put everything away RIGHT NOW.
The thing is, my kids are really good little organizers. When
yelled at enough properly motivated, they can put everything away and then sit peacefully on the floor of their spotless playroom like little angels. Then, for 6 glorious minutes, all is at peace in our home.
This cycle needs to stop
When I put up our Christmas tree this year, I decided to reclaim my living room. With yet another construction project going on upstairs, I was determined to have just one room in our home that was peaceful, cozy, and all mine to enjoy late at night with a Hallmark movie and a glass of wine.
I banished all but one basket of toys and a basket of books. Everything else had to go. The kids can play in the living room, but when they are done, everything MUST be put away.
No more yelling, because we don’t let these shared spaces and rooms get out of control. It’s just a fact: when we are done with one thing, we put it away.
If you leave toys in the living room, they go to Toy Jail – where you have to do a chore to get them back.
What about the minefield in the play room?
I went to Home Depot, I bought some wood, and I built shelves for the closet in the play room. If we can’t fit all of our toys in this closet, then we have too many toys. Simple.
Oh, and you had better believe not all the toys fit in the closet. Yes, more than one covert trip to Goodwill was involved. More than one black trash bag was snuck into the trash bin.
Pro Tip: Use black trash bags. Even if the kids see the bag, they will never know what was inside of it.
I put all of our toys all in one spot out of sight, leaving more open space in our home than I had seen for a long time.
Then, I closed the door.
Sure, I’ll have to re-open it eventually. But do you want to hear something crazy? My kids don’t play with their toys that much anyway.
They would much rather make art, or build MagnaTiles, or play a board game together.
What my kids are getting for Christmas:
The kids did select some toys to donate before Christmas – a tradition I highly encourage every family to adopt at holiday time.
Between myself and the grandparents, the twins will be getting:
- ONE larger Lego set each
- new jackets
- art drawing pads and markers
- a 2-night stay at Great Wolf Lodge
- 2 annual memberships to kids places in our area
Do you notice a theme?
Less toys. More experiences.
My Christmas gift to myself
For Christmas this year, I am letting go of the comparison game and the Single Mom Guilt. No, I will never be like FUN DAD. Yes, we have fewer video games and toys.
But we do have more peace in our home. I have more space in my mind and in my heart to be present and fully engaged, instead of stressed and distracted by the clutter.
We have quality time to spend together, experiences to share together, and space to play together.
And that makes me a FUN mom.