Once upon a time, back when The Boy was just a bump, I had a lovely, tidy house. Once upon a time, I vowed that all of his toys would be tasteful, sustainable wooden efforts; no plastic tat with flashing lights and tinny electronic sound effects would darken our doorstep. Needless to say, soon after The Boy was born, I was forced to abandon my principles and lay my inner domestic goddess to rest as the house gradually filled up with an eye-popping array of primary coloured, American voice-overed rubbish.
Over the past few years, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that while I have small children, I’m going to have to put up with my house looking like an explosion in a toy shop. But nevertheless, every now and then – usually when some big new toy enters the house and finds itself residing on the living room floor for want of a permanent home – I enforce a clear-out.
Today was one of those days. This week, we’ve acquired both a borrowed Fisher Price Jumperoo (huge, seriously lounge-filling huge, but hey, The Baby loves it) and another new Playmobil aeroplane, approximately a foot long. And while the Jumperoo is destined to furnish our front room for the foreseeable, the plane is not, and I repeat NOT, going to hang around downstairs forever more. Which meant clearing out some space in The Boy’s room.
Before The Baby was born, we offered The Boy the option to move from our smallest room (roughly 9x12ft, but with the stair bulkhead taking up a good chunk) to the middle-sized one. He declined, on the grounds that he wouldn’t be able to look out of the front window, and so he remains in the little room while The Baby has the bigger one. We redecorated his bedroom to free up the nursery furniture for The Baby, and in doing so, were mindful of providing as much storage as was possible. But less than 12 months on, every single drawer, cupboard and storage box has been filled.
So, today we embarked on the task of clearing out some of The Boy’s outgrown toys to make way for the new. It was an unavoidable task, not just because of the new aeroplane, but also because he’ll soon have his birthday, swiftly followed by Christmas. But while decluttering his room is usually a painful process, today was a very different experience.
In the past, any attempts to get rid of old toys have been met with complaints and tearful resistance: ‘I still play with that, Mummy!’ Today, though, every time I suggested boxing something up, The Boy concurred quite happily. And so, out on the landing, we have three full boxes ready to go into the loft, one containing role play toys (tea set, microwave, kettle), one containing Fireman Sam vehicles, and one Bob the Builder and co.
This is a Good Thing. It frees up bedroom space, for a start. It also banishes some of The Boy’s most annoying toys to the loft, specifically Venus the rescue car, which spontaneously starts shouting, ‘Fire-fighting is very DANGEROUS!’ in a broad Welsh accent if you so much as walk past it.
But while I’m partly glad to lay three boxes of plastic junk to rest, I also feel quite sad. Twelve months ago, I’d never have imagined a time when we could retire Bob and his gang. I certainly never could have foreseen a time when my self-professed Thomas expert had to ask me what the pink train was called, because he had forgotten. The cynic in me realises that The Boy has only agreed to get rid of so many toys to make room for new ones, but I know that while he has requested that we keep them in the loft ‘just in case’ rather than passing them on to someone else, he’ll never play with them again.
All is not lost. Soon enough, The Baby will be developing her own toy preferences, and I’ll admit to being much more excited about dolls’ houses and Sylvanian Families than I ever was about Fireman Sam and Brio. But I now have inexorable proof that The Boy isn’t a little boy any more. I have a feeling that if I blink, the next five years will have disappeared and even the Lego and Playmobil will have been cleared out to be replaced by computer games, body spray and muddy football boots. The transformation from toddler to teen may not be complete yet, but we’re well on the way – and it feels like The Boy was only just born.
Goodbye, Bob and Sam. We’ll miss you.