Pop goes my sanity
In an effort to preserve our nerves, Spencer and I have started moving certain “interesting” (read: annoying) toys where our two-year-old can’t find them. Stashes of loud gizmos could be found in several hiding spots, but we were finally discovered.
Guess it was bound to happen eventually.
I could blame the baby for wanting quiet, but that’s not strictly true. Hadley handles most sounds — especially her brother’s shouts — just fine. Some of the best advice I received as a new parent was not to stifle normal household noise like the dishwasher, television and vacuum. If an infant needs silence in order to rest, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Especially given how much they sleep.
We might have been able to keep it quiet for our first child, but definitely not with the second. Have you tried to desperately shush a toddler? Like animals, they will sense your fear — and exploit it. As soon as Oliver realizes how badly I want him to turn down the volume, he becomes a one-man marching band. Tabletops are drums. Cups become cymbals. He begins to tap dance in his sneakers, clapping along to whatever tune he’s loudly singing that day (songs from “The Lorax” of late).
This startles Hadley, of course. Usually when I’ve just spent forever soothing her to sleep — a long, taxing hour in which I’ve beaten a path pacing through my living room. Right when I’m starting to lose hope, she’ll finally nod off. Then I must complete the difficult arms-to-bassinet transfer without waking her.
If I do manage all that, the waves of relief I’m releasing will alert my son to get the popper — a kid-powered push toy so many of us have “enjoyed” over the years. My parents showed up with it when Oliver was just learning to walk, reminiscing about how much I loved my own popper in the ’80s.
So Mom and Dad got their revenge. As anyone who has spent time with a child wielding the popper can attest, it’s annoying. Very annoying. And loud. I’m not usually bothered by noise (especially lately), but its aggressive, awful popping sounds make me want to light it on fire.
My parents had to know this, of course. They were laughing as we cringed, which made Oliver run even faster with the popper. For a time, Ollie didn’t want to push it himself; he wanted us to chase him. So in addition to having a headache, my back would kill me from hunching over to push a toy designed for toddler hands.
I’ll cop to being a little miffed at my parents, even trying to reverse fate by offering to “let the popper live at Nana and Grandpa’s” (they declined). Obviously they knew they’d started a reign of terror. But I can’t really blame them, either. Dealing with irritating children’s toys? It’s a rite of passage. Just like hiding them. If Oliver looked closely, he might notice many items “missing” from his toy box. He’s a fortunate little guy with no shortage of gizmos — most gifted or passed along from family — to play with. Where he once favored books, we’re already losing him to the lure of screens and flashing lights. It is true that kids love bright, noisy, musical things, and we have plenty of them.
When my husband and I can take no more of a singing snowman, talking chicken or one of many remote-controlled cars Ollie runs over our feet, they have to go “nightnight.” Having recently been home with the kids on maternity leave, my list of really-have-to-gonight-night toys is longer than the current wait time at the MVA.
Of course, only a rookie would move a toy out from a kid’s nose in broad daylight. Like my desperation for him not to wake the baby, Ollie can sense when something is making me crazier than a Minion and will refuse to give it up. I’ve tried moving the worst offenders to his bedroom, where he never plays unattended, but he’ll inevitably grab them on his way back downstairs and lord them over us until bedtime.
Beginning hours earlier, Spencer and I will quietly mumble about which toys “need to disappear” after Oliver goes to sleep. You can’t accomplish this task until he’s headed for a solid 10 hours of rest; if you attempt to move anything during a short nap, he’ll catch on and act out. Typically by asking for said item (“Trac-tor! Trac-tor! Where’d it go? Where’d it go?”) until you break down, “finding” it just to stop the hollering.
Not that I’ve had any experience with that.
Most of the crazy-making toys do wind up in a pile in the basement, where we can bring them back in measured doses — and never all at once. Ollie can’t go down there, so the risk of him discovering that is low.
But, you see, we don’t always follow protocol. That’s when mistakes happen.
When the popper was really “bothering the baby” (OK — me), Spencer finally hid it behind a bookcase during one of Ollie’s naps. Our shelves sit at an angle bolted to the wall, which creates a small storage space behind them. It’s not visible unless you’re standing in a certain place in that room.
That area typically collects dust, so we decided to put it to good use collecting the broken pieces of my concentration . . . in the form of poppers and dancing robots.
Until Tuesday, anyway. Oliver was wandering around when he stopped by the bookcase, something in the shadows catching his eye. I tried to stay still, betraying nothing, but he started pointing.
Should I play dumb? His arms aren’t long enough to reach the popper himself; should I go for a distraction? He’s recently discovered the awesomeness of chocolate (“chock-o”). Let’s not pretend I’m above bribery.
In the end, I caved and brought the popper back out. Ollie hugged it to him, reunited with a lost friend, and ran off with that priceless toddler giggle.
Guess the popper will soon have to join its other pals in the basement — our only good hiding spot left.
Good thing Ollie can’t read.