On the Proliferation of Stuff
Where Did They Get These Wonderful Toys?
When Michael and I first brought Muffin and Squeaker home, we had the bare minimum that we needed for their basic needs: a couple of changes of clothing, a box of diapers, and some formula the hospital had sent home with us. That was about it.
Two days later, we took them out to our synagogue for the ceremony in which they received their names. We brought with us a double stroller, a diaper bag, a bag of toys, and some food for me and for them, just in case.
Notice a disconnect? I didn't at the time. I have since discovered that, through some perhaps magical means, two small girls are able to collect and retain more stuff than I ever thought possible. And this has just gotten worse the older they get.
Take, for example, my checklist before we go out anywhere for even the shortest amount of time. Do I have diapers? (I need one size for Muffin, a smaller size for Squeaker.) Snack food? (There must be more than one variety, in case they refuse to eat one in preference of the other.) Changes of clothing? (Incidents of catastrophic diaper failure are unusual these days, but I guarantee that the one time I forget extra clothing is when they're going to really, really need it.) Their cups with built-in straws? (Muffin and Squeaker have not yet mastered drinking from regular cups, and they will go nuts if they can't have their water when they want it.) Toys, in case of boredom? (It could happen, and with minimal notice.) Only once I have confirmed that all of these things are packed into our stroller can we leave.
And if we're having a meal at someone else's home, I have to take their booster seats, their bibs, and possibly some other food-related items.
Do we really need to take all this stuff with us? Well, yes and no. But I'd hate to be in the position of needing an item and not having it with us. Again, think of what would happen if I needed an extra change of clothing and forgot to bring one...
I will admit that we no longer take along some of the stuff we used to need. I don't need to bring pacifiers, since the girls gave them up almost a year ago. I don't need to take my nursing pillow or privacy drape, since the girls are completely weaned now. But as the infancy-related items fell away, new things got added. I have to bring at least one banana (because we never miss the girls' morning Banana Time) and a container of veggie straws. Books to entertain the girls are also a popular take-along. They'll "read" on their own a lot, and they often like to be read to, as well.
Sometimes I look around our living room -- which has been turned into the girls' de facto play room -- and wonder at how the stuff managed to accumulate. It's not just that we bought the girls some things, and then friends and family gave us some things. It's also that as Muffin and Squeaker get older their toys have more parts. So instead of there just being some dolls or some stuffed animals around, there are 50 wooden blocks, 100 plastic building blocks, small plastic people and animals to go with the house and barn, and so forth. There is a Magical Land Under the Sofa that I delve into every few days. This land is inhabited by items the girls have temporarily forgotten they had, and they are overjoyed to be reunited with the random plastic cow or stuffed monkey rattle that they love. Of course, as happens, the Magical Land Under the Sofa has also become haven for a single shoe, a random sock, and the occasional piece of breakfast cereal.
There are times, in the middle of the night, that I think I hear movement in the living room. Yes, it might be the echo of our upstairs neighbors moving around their living room, but part of me imagines it's the Stuff in the living room, organizing.
This week's column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.