Monday, December 5, 2011

The Monday Muse: Toy Story

I used to be that woman over there, standing in the middle of the toy section at Walmart, fussing at her preschooler for wanting plastic toys, loudly exclaiming that such toys exuded nasty chemicals and therefore we weren't going to buy one, not now, not ever, no way, no how.

Well, okay, I was never quite like that. I never brought my preschool-age kid to the toy section at Walmart...if a mom wants to buy wooden toys, then Walmart is the last place she should go. What I did do, however, was ban all plastic toys from the house for a long, long time. There, are, after all, all kinds of nasty chemicals in plastic toys, and a lot can be said for the feel and imaginative play value of wooden figures and simple, home-spun dolls.

Then everything changed.

Our plastic infiltration first came in the form of Polly Pockets. Alex and Sage saw them at a friend's house; it didn't take them long to ask for some of their own. I acquiesced, since, though I believed in my values, I didn't see the harm in allowing exceptions every once in a while. Some rules should have a little bend to them, don't you think?

The girls loved those Polly Pockets so much that I eventually allowed other exceptions, and now we've a house full of both wooden ("crunchy") and plastic ("mainstream") toys. We've even allowed Barbie into our home...though we first had many conversations about how this particular doll needs to put on a few pounds and buy some decent clothing. The girls get it, they understand where I'm coming from, and they have very healthy attitudes about their own bodies. I don't think they feel they're supposed to look like Barbie, or a Polly Pocket, or anything other than their own lovely, natural selves. Therefore, Barbie can stay. (Her skeezy Bratz doll cousins, however, remain banned -- sorry, they just plain creep me out.)

That woman at Walmart -- the one with the crying four year old who refuses to put down the plastic box containing the latest preschool trend -- she's doing what she feels is right. I understand her, I get where she's coming from, and I applaud her conscientiousness. A large part of me wants to go to her, hug her, tell her that thoughtful parenting is so, so hard, and offer her my phone number in case she ever wants to chat.

Another part of me, however, wants to approach this woman and tell her to chill out. To suggest that if she's going to bring her child into the toy section of Walmart, then perhaps she might consider buying the kid just one normally forbidden item.

My kids are growing, and I'm changing as the years go on; we're all in constant morph-mode. Who knows what I'll allow next. I might shock myself and buy a Wii.


sherpajohn said...

Spend less time defending yourself to the naysayers. It's a waste of energy. In my experience, the New England hiking world is filled with drama and insults. Spend your energy on what YOU DO.. tell us about your adventures.. MANY support you. MANY agree with you. Who cares about those who don't?! You have NO ONE to explain yourself to other then yourself and your creator.

Patricia Ellis Herr said...

Hi John,

This post wasn't about me defending my choices. It's a reflection on how my choices have changed over the years, and how things that I used to think were black and white really aren't (at least, not to me).

This blog has an audience that reaches well beyond the New England hiking scene, therefore I don't limit my posts to strictly hiking-related material. Tuesdays are reserved for trip reports, but other days' postings might include material about anything from homeschooling to feminism to well, the choice of plastic vs. wooden toys.

The toy issue is actually a big one among certain groups of parents. I've had quite a few discussions recently with moms who are going through paradigm shifts. You might not relate to today's post, but others definitely will.

You don't need to tell me not to worry about the naysayers, by the way. I never have. Alex and I would never have hiked past our second mountain if I did, lol.