Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Parenting Milestone: Hoarders

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Have you ever randomly smiled and not quite been sure why? I've heard that fleeting, unexplained giggles, sighs, smiles, and sadnesses are attributed to someone, somewhere thinking of us. 

Wherever my father is right now, he just laughed. Not a small chuckle. He is having a good side-splitter. I'll tell you why, in hopes that progress is made while my back is turned. 

Cheers, Daddy.
I worked at a summer camp in my teens. The staff all had "bird names" and my chosen name was Magpie. I even have the little bird tattoo to commemorate many happy years spent as Magpie. When I chose the name, I didn't quite realize that magpies were more than just collectors, they can be downright hoarders. As a child, I collected all sorts of oddities. I had a marble collection, rock collection, original Cabbage Patch Kid collection (actually, they are still in the basement...), sticker collection, coin collection, and, eventually, I collected enough Beanie Babies to fill a pool. And those are just the ones I remember.

My room was generally a mess. I actively work every single day to try and keep the clutter at bay, but now the clutter is random bits of games my toddler has dumped out that morning, kid art, errant socks, and opened mail that belongs to my husband so I really don't know what to do with it and I hate being a nag. He knows it is there. (Right, Husband?!)

So after years of existing as an adult in a house of my own that has a system I can generally maintain to a level that if someone that wasn't a close friend were to call and tell me they were stopping by in 20 minutes, the visible rooms would look respectable. If they don't, you are either a close friend or someone needs to send in reinforcements.

My older daughter's room is generally a little crazy. Just like when I was a kid, it will be clean one second and a disaster the next. Many of my friends have assured me this is how kids exist. Then, one day, my daughter did something that warranted us scooping all the toys, books, stray socks, everything that was on the floor or shelves or in the toy drawer were unceremoniously dumped into a box by my husband and moved into the spare room. I don't remember the when or what of the crime. All I know is we have friends visiting this weekend and the monstrosity of a box (thanks, Amazon!) needs to vacate the space. This coincides nicely with my daughter's recent desire to find a doll I was pretty sure was somewhere in that box.

I told my dear 4.5-year-old that she could search the box for her doll, but before she could play with her, every last thing had to be emptied from the box, sorted, and put away properly.

And then I watched in silent horror at the things she unearthed. Meanwhile, she acted like this was Christmas morning. "Look! I found..." started every high-pitched exclamation."

"... my Merida doll!"
"... my box of pirate gold!"
"... a can of Play-Do!" (what?!)
"... my hairbrush, so you don't need to yank out my hair with your brush!"
"... this very important book I know is important because it has tiny writing!" (a guide to wine)
"... my sister's (insert half of the toddler's worldly possessions)!"
"... a glue stick that doesn't work anymore!" (Kid, we need to talk.)

And it just kept going. And going. Game pieces, scraps of paper, Valentine's... at some point I zoned out. But the whole time she was happy. Impressively, she chucked a bunch of junk without prompting. She was certain to report every last item to me, enthusiastically, and then place it in its proper place. Two hours later, the time came for her to collect her doll and play.

I know some will read this and shake their heads, wondering how any parent could let stuff amass. These people either don't have kids, are gifted the rare, meticulous child, or clean the room for their child. As much as I had a propensity for collecting, my mother frequently just bagged everything up when it overwhelmed and pushed it into the attic, using the threat that it had been pitched. I knew how to get into the attic, unfortunately for her, and never learned how to maintain or cull any sort of collection. My hope is that my daughter learned something this afternoon*. And that my father enjoyed his laugh. He's only been waiting 25 years.

(For the record, my parents are divorced. My father and my ever-patient stepmother, with my home I spent less time at, would actually make me clean my room. I gnashed my terrible teeth and rolled my terrible eyes, but they persisted. Cheers.)

*If not, next time I'm calling the team from Hoarders before the cat gets flattened and we find cans of beans from 1947.

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