April 18, 2008

If You Want To View Paradise ...

Once upon a time there was a living room filled with nothing but a comfortable couch, a coffee table, a few pieces of artwork and a large TV. These days, though, that couch is covered in toys. And that coffee table is covered in toys. And those pieces of artwork are covered in toys. And that TV is covered in—well, you get the picture (but I don't because it's covered in toys).

At 9 months old, Ella has effectively collected nearly 7 billion plastic playthings. Some of them were gifts. Some of them were hand-me-downs. Some of them, my wife says, "Must have appeared out of thin air"—though a drawer full of Toys R Us receipts begs to differ. I'm pretty sure that if we liquidated Ella's Fischer Price collection we could retire, move somewhere on the Pacific Coast and still have enough cash leftover to support an unhealthy gambling problem.


The chief issue here isn't even that our baby has too many toys (though she does); it's that she doesn't care about them. She ignores them. Slinky? Pass. Building blocks? No thanks. Spinning Wheel that Makes Animal Noises? Ba-humbug. It's as if she'd already outgrown them all.
So what does she want? I'll tell you, but you better sit down and brace yourself for this shocking revelation:

She wants to be picked up and placed inside a $5.99 blue Rubbermaid tub. And no, I am not making this up.

When my folks first told me about the phenomenon, I laughed. It had to be a joke. They'd watched her for a couple of hours one night and placed her in the tub for "funnzies," and, according to one independent observer (my mom), she took to it like my wife took to Rico the Snoogle. But my parents, like any set of parents who have been promoted to grandparents, can be goofy sometimes, so I chalked up Ella's initial enjoyment to just playing with grandma and grandpa. Yet two mornings later I found my wife on the floor and Ella back in the tub.

"What can I say, she wanted in," Brittany said. "She's been squatting and slowly raising her head, playing peek-a-boo with me all morning. It may be the cutest thing I've ever seen." (And that says a lot, as my wife sees about 17 cute things a day.)

Over the next two weeks we spent a majority of our time at home playing in the Rubbermaid tub, exiting only for feedings, diaper changes, baths and drool mop-ups. Ella'd disappear for minutes at a time, then suddenly peek two eyes over the rim. We'd occasionally throw toys in the tub for her, but she'd lean down, pick them up and remove them like a taxi driver cleaning out his cab.

I didn't know what all the hubbub was about, so I figured there was only one way to find out: I got in the bin. It was a tight squeeze, sure, but after 20 minutes of bending, folding and dislocating parts of my body, I made it. I also learned a valuable lesson: Always pee before entering a Rubbermaid tub.

So I got out, peed, and got back in again. As I sat there surrounded in a sea of blue walls, I tried to envision why Ella enjoyed this so much. Maybe she loves the tub because it feels like her own little kingdom. Maybe it allows her privacy that's tough to come by when you're 9 months old. Maybe she's preparing for life in a cubicle. Who knows? Or maybe, just maybe, it gives her imagination a chance to run wild—and each time she enters there's a new adventure to be had.

Whatever the reason, this experiment made me realize something that Ella has already learned in her young life: You don't need fancy toys to have a good time. You don't need to spend ungodly amounts of money. You don't even need to leave the house. All you need is a little imagination.

And maybe a $5.99 blue Rubbermaid tub.

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian


Laurie said...

I'd love to see a picture of her peek-a-boo-ing. Really cute story - isn't that always the case?

Our new baby, Betty the Boston Terrier, loves to chew on the container that holds her toys a little too much.

Wise One said...

... simply look around and view it...

You roped me in with the reference to Willy Wonka.

I certainly hope that you're playing that movie for Ella so that she has a lifetime of chocolate tunnel nightmares ahead of her.

Mommy Bits said...

What an adorable photo. I think you'll find little ones also love things like wrapping paper tubes, bubble wrap (when she's older), plastic cups (in the tub) and tupperware containers.

I can't believe how fast she's growing.

:Donna said...

Firstly, using that song was the perfect depiction of what your daughter is using: Imagination! (I have the sound track in my car and periodically play it repeatedly! And no, I'm NOT kidding! :)

Brian, this is absolutely adorable and SOOoooooo typical. I think it's great that you've learned this extremely valuable, debt-abating lesson at such a young age (your daughter's age, that is). When it came time to truly clean out my son's room to make room for his puberty (yes, puberty needs a LOT of room), I was nearly brought to tears as I was forced to voluntarily (yes, an oxymoron of the cruelest kind) get rid of hundreds of dollars worth of stuff, most of which was barely touched. The same thing happened with relatively expensive clothing only last year (my son's graduating college).

My son's generation most definitely doesn't know the value of money, so much so that I sincerely believe there was a subliminal, flashing picture of a money tree imbedded in all the toy commercials they viewed since birth. I'd hate to think of what they have imbedded in them now!

Anyway, thanks for the giggles again, and how can you not love the pic of her in that tub. My son enjoyed a diaper box for a while ;)

Ginger said...

Been there, done that, man. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you is that Once Upon A Child buys toys and you can recoup some of the money.

Addie's favorite thing? Stacking cups. She can pour water, throw them, stack them, throw them again. Ikea - $2.99. Forget the talking toys, the ones that spin, the horse that gallops, etc. Stupid, stacking cups.

Oh - and I'm impressed that you could contort and fit in a rubbermaid bin. That's awesome! (And actually sounds like fun!)

ShopDownLite.com said...

When we were your parents we thought it was so great to get gifts. But now were knee deep in toys and beg people not buy gifts for the kids. The bes tis when you buy new parent friend noisy tyos that the kids will play with and drive the parents nuts - It's really a fun time :-)

Courtney said...

Chris has said from the very beginning, "we will not buy toys for our kids, just give them a cardboard box and some wadded up paper" "That will amuse them more than toys" I guess he is right. I can't wait to experience the imagination kids have.