The sound of the crash echoed from my son's room across our house. Upon inspecting the damage, at the base of my son's feet was a hand-crafted wooden race car that was now splintered on the floor. He let out an enthusiastic, "Uh-oh," which is a phrase he also says when he purposefully turns over a glass of water onto the table. It's almost like he didn't understand that the race car was for decoration, not to be played with.
It was while looking at these broken fragments that I realized that my love of old wooden toys wasn't practical for how my rambunctious toddler actually plays. I needed to reconcile the parent I thought I would be and the parent I needed to be. I didn't drop the toy, but I caused it to break by not giving him any other options.
Maybe I'm a bad parent for valuing how things look. I'm overly concerned with appearances and nice things.
Before having a kid, I loathed toys. There was nothing worse than walking in to someone's home and seeing a mountain of plastic toys scattered about. It seemed like the world of adults had been muffled out by the needs of the child, and that was scary. I wanted kids, but I also wanted to continue being some version of me. I decided that an abundance of toys, particularly vibrant and primary-colored plastic ones, was to be avoided at all costs.
Children need toys, which was a concept that I understood but wasn't ready to wholeheartedly accept. Toys help children grow and learn, and at the very least are a phenomenal way to keep them entertained so the adults can get stuff done. But plastic toys just felt so, well, childish.
Pretending that it was only because of my environmental concerns, I asked that any gifted toys be limited to wood or recycled plastic. This kept our toy collection simple and beautiful. Blocks, trucks, rattles, and wooden dolls were so stylish that we displayed them. It felt like his world of toys was able to fit into our sense of decor.
But for a lot of the toys, he either quickly outgrew them, they broke, or I was too afraid to let him play with them. My favorite, a wooden rhinoceros that is also a puzzle, he desperately wants to play with, but I get so nervous every time because I don't want to lose any of the pieces, so it mostly lives on the shelf, untouched.
Maybe I'm a bad parent for valuing how things look. I'm overly concerned with appearances and nice things. I get that, but as he's gotten older, what he really wants is something no hand-crafted wooden toy can give.
He wants character toys, things that light up, and all slides and water tables. In essence, what he wants is plastic.
Considering that he plays hard, I'm willing to forgo my ban on plastic. I can let him enjoy sliding across the basement on his plastic truck that wasn't meant to be a glider but he rides it anyway. He plays with his number and letter pad, sings the songs, and laughs at the funny noises. It's not whittled by an old man in upstate New York, but he loves playing with them.
So for a while I'll give up exclusively buying the wooden toys. Plastic hasn't overtaken our lives, but considering how happy it makes him, I'm willing to make a place for it.