What’s a mom to do when the piles of toys carpeting her home reach critical mass? One mom, held up in an article as a pillar of maternal strength, took it upon herself to bag up “literally thousands” of toys and take them all away despite the cries of woe from her children, the eldest being eight years old.
Ah, comfort, freedom, open spaces, the ability to walk about without event. The mom was lauded by friends and readers alike.
I saw no cause for celebration. In the comment section I questioned the toy-toting mother for saying, “It was obscene…” when “I was obscene…” would’ve been more appropriate. Children are not responsible for purchases made on their behalf. The sheer volume of toys was an indictment of the parents. That the mother got frustrated enough to toss the toys because the children were not keeping them tidy as requested speaks not to her ability to solve a problem but rather to her almost decade-long quest to accommodate a child’s want at the expense of everyone’s need.
It was further noted in the comments that the mom in question had not made all of the toy purchases. Friends and relatives had made many a contribution. I suggested then that mom sounded like she couldn’t say no to anyone – again, not a reason to celebrate. That’s when virtual heads started to roll. Could I not see how much courage it took to make the decision and how much work it took to carry out the plan?
My suggestion that a story be done about those moms who do say no and don’t allow their homes to be turned into satellite offices for Toys-R-Us was met with chagrin and the accusation that it must be nice to be a perfect parent and thus unable to understand the situation. I understand the mother fixed something she broke. I also understand there are those mothers who keep things from breaking in the first place and that their stories are of little interest to those who have already let themselves go, as it were. I can only surmise I hit a nerve with those who had.
To illustrate the folly of praising a fix rather than praising the tools used by the person who gets it right in the first place, I used the analogy of the recovering alcoholic who, with 30 years of sobriety under her belt, is held up so high she overshadows the 30-year-old who has never had a sip of alcohol. The latter lady has also been sober for 30 years. Does she not have the more useful how-to to tell? My fellow commenters speculated that I must know nothing about addiction. Again there was the insistence that those who fix what they break are somehow more newsworthy than those who get it right in the first place.
This kind of reverse thinking and subsequent praise doesn’t hold water in prevention campaigns to keep kids off drugs or out of gangs, because it sends the message that knowledge isn’t power, staying in school isn’t cool, and as long as you fix what you break, it’s okay to break it. So why are success stories overlooked instead of being held up as the worthy standard when the content is so specifically useful? I speculate a lot of people would rather read about those who spent years cultivating a miserable failure rather than follow in the footsteps of someone who took the initiative to step outside their comfort zone to meet a need they saw years in advance.
Only one commenter, even as she applauded the article-mom, had the story that should’ve been told: “Almost eight years ago when we only had three kids (we now have five) we instituted a family rule that only Santa brings toys at Christmas – books, music, puzzles, board games, and movies were okay. We asked that if family felt the need to give a gift at all to give the kids a gift of experience like a day at the zoo or an art class. The grief we got from the grandparents and extended family was extreme and I was even called a few names that I cannot put in a public venue. Some refused to follow the rules and their gifts went to Toys for Tots.”