Monday, November 14, 2011

A Toy Story

Maybe I've seen too much of the Toy Story franchise but I couldn't help but feel bad for Mickey Mouse.  There he was, sitting on the night stand as my daughter squeezed the cuteness right out of Zoe Monster.  Mickey watched, his perky smile ear to big round ear as I read the night time books and did our usual bedtime routine for an intruder from Sesame Street.   I looked at him and thought, "Don't worry, Mickey, Mommy's got this."  I turned to my daughter and gently said, "Don't you want to cuddle with Mickey?"   She shook her head and lovingly bit Zoe's eye.  I glanced apologetically at Mickey, hoping his abandonment issues weren't as bad as Woody and Buzz.

I remember the dolls that I loved when I was a kid.  I'll admit I tried pushing a few on my daughter.  Grover, ladybug, the beautiful crocheted doll my mother made.  I'd make them dance and sing and show her how much fun each one was.  Her interest would last a minute and I started to wonder if she would ever grow attached to any doll like so many toddlers do.  Then there came Mickey, who was the result of an impulse purchase and proof that my daughter has Daddy wrapped around her tiny little finger.  All she has to do is point, say "gets," and magically there is less money in our wallets.  

We thought Mickey would be like any other doll, but soon she couldn't go anywhere without him.  She carried him around, fed him Cheerios, hugged him during diaper changes, and brought him to our nightly story time.  Mickey is pretty much the same size as her which makes cuddling on Mommy's lap a bit of a challenge. But since he has joined the family, she goes down to sleep at night without a peep.  So one can understand why I'm kind of a Mickey advocate.  

I think about the potential  longevity of Mickey's reign.  My mom discarded a lot of my toys after we moved out of our apartment.  Her reasoning was that I had lost interest.  I couldn't argue.  Maybe I grew distant, making her think Miss Piggy and Kermit were expendable.  But as an adult, when flashes of distant memories come into view, I want to run up to my parents' attic and find them.  I know my daughter will want to do that someday too.

Though, like my mother, I find myself taking inventory of my cramped apartment, looking to see what I can get rid of. My daughter is likely too young to remember certain toys but what if years from now, a tiny sliver of familiarity comes with seeing Abby Cadabby or Little Red Riding Hood?  How can I decide what will be most important to her? What will be sitting on the shelf today and be her favorite next month?  

Maybe I should just keep everything and consider this a teaching moment.  As a fellow female and survivor of adolescent girl drama, I can use her dolls as examples of how not to cast old friends aside for new ones.  I can teach her how V-Tech Puppy Violet is just as special as Fisher Price Puppy, even though you can't program Fisher Price Puppy to say your name or favorite food.  I can emphasize the importance of The Sesame Street playset as a great place to see her favorite friends like Telly and Bert.  Sure, The Little People Doll House has a phone that rings, but it doesn't have a grouch in a can on the corner.  Everyone brings something different to the table.

We finish our last night time book with Zoe still tightly bound under my daughter's arm.  I put her in the crib, ask her for a kiss and give one to Mickey too, who I stealthy positioned under the mobile.  My daughter looks at Zoe, loses her grip and reaches for Mickey.   As I put Zoe back on the shelf, I turn to see Mickey in his usual spot, snug under my daughter's left arm as she settles under the covers and for a split second, I swear that mouse gives me a wink.


  1. First off, this is a great post. It is very well written and I love the end with "the wink." Though, you may want to lay off the pain meds for your back if you continue to share winks with stuffed animals at night. :)

    When it comes to toys and tots I always think about Julius Caesar and Gladiator. I know, an odd analogy - but bear with me. A baby is a lot like the mob. The mob is fickle. The need for instant gratification which brings a smile to a child's face and then two minutes later the toy is collecting dust. It makes you want to exclaim, "Are you not entertained!" in your best Maximus impersonation. However, if a child knows that they will constantly be able to update their collection of toys it will make them even more fickle.

    I think the key to longevity and enjoyment is moderation. The less is more approach to toys. Unless it is a toy that the child learns from, watches regularly on TV, or more importantly, through reading then there is no reason for the purchase. If you find yourself running out of room in your house and there is a need to discard that is not based upon the fact that the toy is no longer age appropriate than you have violated this rule and just bought too much.

    In terms of what your child likes at the moment has to do with what they are exposed to. If they watch a lot of Sesame Street they will love Zoe, Anny and Elmo. If you want them to love a doll from when you were a kid then get a little creative. Make a little 5 minute short with the character "singing and dancing" to some of her favorite songs (easy to do with any smartphone) and then play it a few times a day. Before you know it she will "want one of those" and then you can give it to her right out of your own memory box. I have tried this and it works.

    Just don't tell Mickey and Zoe - they know how to hold a grudge!

  2. Above I called a character "Anny" it should be "Abby"

  3. I second that! Very well written article. I've decided I'm an idiot for buying Ben any toys. All he wants to play with are the non-toys!! We have a huge toy box in the living room, plenty of larger toys laying around, and an entire room devoted to toys in the basement and all he cares about are the nail clippers, the medicine bottles, the thermometer, my coffee cup--the more dangerous the item the more intriguing it appears to be. Not sure where this leaves me as far as holiday gift purchases but something tells me I won't get any smarter.