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Worst Parent Gig: Keeper of the Toys

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I keep seeing articles about moms who tossed out their kids' toys in my Facebook feed.

I'd love to attribute this to the universe pointing me toward life solutions, but I know enough about cookies and Facebook data collection to suspect that this probably has more to do with my search history than with divine intervention.

Of all the tasks associated with parenting, Keeper of the Toys is my least favorite. I would rather breastfeed a colicky baby with a bad latch and Hoover sucking power than be on Toy Keeper duty.

Our toy problem falls into five categories.

1. Legos are tiny, so it's easy for them to add up. Also, they're expensive AND great for building things like fine motor skills and creativity, so it's hard to give them away. I think about donating them. Sometimes I even bag them up, but I can't seem to pull the trigger and just give them away.

2. Pink Stuff, aka all the crap my 4-year-old daughter sheds as she moves from room to room. Pink stuff includes one lone Barbie high heel (I never find two together), numerous Shopkins, My Little Ponies and anything related to princesses, Strawberry Shortcake, Monster High or American Girl. These can be as tiny as a microscopic Barbie hair brush or as big as a life-sized Princess Anna Coronation Day Dress Up Gown. Also, fairy wings. Pink Stuff definitely includes fairy wings.

3. Dollar Store/Treasure Chest/Goody Bag/Happy Meal. These toys just appear. From nowhere. And they reproduce asexually. (Thank goodness! Sexually would be creepy.) One day, there's just one hard plastic frog; the next day, there are seven, as well as yo-yos, bouncy balls, whistles and glow sticks. And stickers. So many stickers.

4. Needs-Batteries-But-I-Cant-Find-The-Tiny-Screwdriver. Seriously, why do toys even have batteries if they're going to be so hard to change? The risk of my kid getting shocked by touching (or even licking) a Duracell AA has got to be less than the risk of my kid getting hurt when I throw the toy at the wall in frustration and it smashes into 17 flying projectiles.

5. Plush. These were called Stuffed Animals when I was a kid. Now they're called Plush. Maybe because it sounds fancier. Or maybe because it hurt the toys' self-esteem to be called "Stuffed animals." Or maybe someone didn't like the taxidermy connotations. Whatever the reason, we have hundreds of these in my house, no exaggeration. From the tiniest Beanie Babies to giant hippos that are nearly as big as me, probably once a month I sneak in and fill a garbage bag with more stuffed animals to donate. I have exactly zero issues with giving them away. But then, the very next morning, more appear in their place. Like Gremlins.

I have invested hundreds of dollars in organization systems to control all of these things. We have a really cool Lego drawer system. It mostly stays empty because the Legos, sadistically, stay on the floor. We have not one, but two cargo nets for the Plush (aka stuffed animals). We have bins and baskets for the Pink Stuff, and we have, well, nothing for the Dollar Store/Treasure Chest/Goody Bag/Happy Meal toys. I just throw those away when the kids aren't looking.

I don't remember buying any of these things. Any of them. Logically, I'm sure that I did buy some, but I'm actually really good at saying no to my kids in stores. I never cave to the "pleases."

Most of these are gifts from relatives in other states and gifts from kids who attended my kids' birthday parties, who I "blessed" with a bag of Dollar Store/Treasure Chest/Goody Bag/Happy Meal toys in return.

I'm more than tempted to push my kids to imitate this little girl's amazing spirit for all future gift-receiving holidays. In lieu of birthday presents, she asked that her friends give books to her local library.

My admiration might be slightly influenced by the fact that this little girl is my niece. But still. She's pretty awesome. And, for the win, my sister-in-law just reduced her duties as Keeper of the Toys.

That's a strategy I can totally get behind.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting Family and Spouse

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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