Monday, August 10, 2009

No-Toy Story

Sometimes I think that I'm the only person getting anything out of Westley's toys.

When Westley was really teeny, I remember agonizing over the the options in the "baby" section of one of our little locally-owned toy stores. I didn't have a ton of money to spend on toys, and I wanted to make sure I picked out something he would like. I settled on a vibrating, light-up turtle with a Velcro strap that could be hooked to carseats and strollers. Westley wasn't impressed by the light show, but enjoyed chewing on the Velcro.

Except for a brief period around nine months, when toys were a great way to keep him from going nuts and crawling all over a new place, Westley has always been pretty ambivalent towards toys. Something that holds his attention for a good 20 or 30 minutes in a store will generally go untouched if I bring it home. We've tried rotating toys, hiding some in the garage while others remain in the toy box and then switching things up, and it doesn't make much difference. Westley would rather play with the salad spinner, or an empty produce box, or my wallet.

His favorite "toys" are tools: mostly my parents' gardening stuff, but also kitchen utensils and my father's power drill. In fact, Westley's word for "toy" and his word for "tool" are practically indistinguishable from one another. I get that he likes measuring cups and CD cases, but I find it completely baffling that with something like a drum, where a toy version exists, Westley would rather bang on an empty birdseed bucket. His favorite game at the moment doesn't involve any toys at all, unless you count pillows. It's called "bed," and the more people who play, the better. Basically the idea is that everyone gets on Rob's and my bed, and Westley flops down on top of us, squealing.

I have to admit, the anti-toy stance kind of bothers me. I'm always tempted to buy Westley toys, especially when I find something cool-looking and wooden at resale. So many of my own childhood memories revolve around blocks or train track or tea sets. My brother and I spent hours building elaborate towers using special blocks with grooves in them, and then watching marbles zig-zag into a "marble pen" we'd specially designed out of Lincoln Logs. But Westley would rather have a giant food storage container to climb into, or turn over and stand on. I know he's too little for Lincoln Logs and marbles, but except for the occasional car or truck from my Brio-heavy childhood, toys aren't even on his radar.

Whenever Westley rejects my block towers, I try to remind myself that this won't last very long. Pretty soon, he'll be all over the wooden construction stuff (a lot of which still bears my brother's and my marker scribbles). And some day, he'll be clambering for the next big thing in toys--the thing all his friends at school have--and I'll be shaking my head, wondering if it's worth the expense and where I'm going to store it. I'm sure that when that day comes, I'll long for this time when Westley didn't care about toys. When all he wanted was adults and board books and household stuff.

Until then, I'll be building train track figure-eights for my own amusement. Maybe I'll even throw myself a tea party.