By Dave Brewster
Before kids, we had a basement. Now, we have a "Playroom" -- a warehouse for toys, games and an old TV. It's like a little underground sanctuary where the boys can play and explore their creativity without overbearing rules, etiquette and manners that dominate their world "topside," where parents hang out. Before we had a playroom, you could see the floor. Now it's pure chaos.
When the kids were younger, they hadn't seen enough birthdays or Christmases to amass the collection of toys that now reside all over the Playroom floor. Back then it was easy to manage. A simple system of plastic bins stored out of reach was easy enough to maintain order. You want some toys? Submit a request through the proper parental channels and you will be granted or denied access to the specific tub full of categorized toys in due time -- but only after other toys were returned to their originally designated compartments.
Beautiful. The kids got the toys they wanted. The floor remained relatively clean and clear, and all was bliss in Paradise ... for a while ...
The collection of toys grew. The boys grew. Unfortunately, when they learned to climb, the carefully devised system of law and order fell apart like something out of "Lord of the Flies." They no longer needed assistance. They came up with their own system.
With a simple tug, the bin full of 1,001 Legos would crash to the floor, spilling its bounty. With another tug, Thomas the Tank Engine, all his friends, and every last length of track from the entire Island of Sodor would join the mix. Left unchecked, stuffed animals, action figures, puzzle pieces by the dozens and board games would all succumb to the unfettered will of the frenzied little masters of disaster. In a matter of minutes, the boys would easily undo hours of careful sifting, sorting, and stacking that were wasted trying to maintain some semblance of order and comfort down there in the bowels of the house.
So there I was, surveying the damage in silent disbelief. No ... disgust.
"I need a bulldozer for all this junk," I thought. Incredulous. Numb ... Forget this!
"Hey, boys!" I hollered. "I need all my boys down in the Playroom. C'mon down."
I returned through the door from the garage with a wide snow shovel in one hand and a cardboard box in the other. As the boys trickled down the basement steps into the room, I began casually plowing toys from one end of the room into a pile in the opposite corner.
"What's that?" the oldest innocently asked.
"What?" I responded as if I didn't know.
"What's that for?" The trap was set.
"Oh, this? This is Magic Shovel," I said and continued my plowing.
"Why's it 'magic'?" He took the bait.
"It makes unwanted toys disappear."
The trap was sprung! Eyes widened. Hearts skipped a beat. My little fauns froze like deer in headlights.
"You see -- if you guys help me put your toys away, Magic Shovel stays in the corner. If you stop, Magic Shovel goes back to work," I said as I dumped the first shovel full of misfit toys into a cardboard box obnoxiously marked "TRASH."
"You mean the toys get thrown away?"
"Yup. Well, that's really up to you."
"Guys, c'mon!" rallied the oldest -- Gotcha!!!! They started a half-hearted cleanup effort, but I took it. I had their attention. The balance of nature was restored and the playroom would soon be clean again ... for a while ...
Dave Brewster is a stay-home-dad being raised by three young boys in Groton. Find more at www.ADadIsBorn.com.